Letters: EOBR ‘Opinion,’ CSA Scores, HOS Rules
These Letters to the Editor appear in the Jan. 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
I read with extreme interest the op-ed “FMCSA Must Move Forward on E-Logging Rule” by Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations (“FMCSA Must Move Forward on E-Logging Rule,” 12-3, p. 5).
I am a company driver who uses electronic onboard recorders, and they are not what they are cracked up to be. Personal experience tells me they are just like paper logs; drivers must enter the information, whether they use a keyboard or pencil. And again, just like paper logs, EOBRs have no way of determining if you are loading or unloading.
As you know, drivers are required to show all time spent waiting for loading and unloading as on-duty time. This is required whether the driver is getting paid or not.
As a driver, I want to be paid for the time I am working, whether it is driving, loading or unloading. If I am not paid for “all” my time, I would say that this is tantamount to stealing from me.
Pay drivers for all their time. This includes “all” time — driving, loading and unloading. By paying drivers for all their time, the so-called driver shortage could disappear.
I find it interesting that in Bill Graves’ op-ed of Dec. 3 electric onboard recorders weren’t mentioned — only electronic logging. Has he softened somewhat on mandated EOBRs?
We know that the Truckload Carriers Association was initially opposed to mandated EOBRs but changed its position to favor electronic logging devices. Is this just semantics, or is there a perceived difference between ELDs and EOBRs?
There are two very difficult requirements put forth in Congress’ mandate to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding EOBRs. The first is that they require FMCSA to ensure that the final program cannot be used to harass drivers. This was the basis for the court to strike down EOBRs in their case with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. How can an EOBR be designed to satisfy this issue?
The second — and possibly more difficult — issue is that the mandated EOBR must ensure driver compliance with the hours-of-service rules. An EOBR accurately tracks only the truck, and until FMCSA requires ankle bracelets for drivers, an EOBR cannot accurately monitor a driver while off duty or on duty, not while driving.
Once again, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies is not opposed to the use of e-logs, ELDs or EOBRs as devices to assist in a company’s compliance efforts. NASTC, however, is still very much opposed to mandated EOBRs for all carriers because more than 50% of carriers have no need for the devices nor, in their view, will they receive little — or any — return on their investment if implemented.
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
Editor’s note: ATA President and CEO Bill Graves provided the following response to David Owen’s letter:
I am writing to respond to the letter to the editor on electronic logging devices from David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies. Mr. Owen’s letter poses several questions and makes some erroneous statements, both of which require clarification.
First, Mr. Owen was confused by the distinction between electronic logging devices and electronic onboard recorders. The former term is used to describe a device that is merely capable of recording compliance with the hours-of-service rules. The latter is often perceived by many in the industry as a multifunction fleet management system that often has hours-of-service recording capabilities in addition to many other features.
Both ATA and TCA support mandating devices that simply record hours-of-service status, but they do not support requiring fleets to purchase multifunction fleet management systems, which typically cost far more. In fact, the provision in the recently enacted highway reauthorization legislation, MAP-21, mandating these devices is titled, “Hours of Service Study and Electronic Logging Devices.”
Mr. Owen also questioned how FMCSA will be able to meet a statutory requirement to ensure that ELDs are not used to harass drivers. The answer may well hinge on how FMCSA — and the courts — define harassment. However, since the congressional mandate does not require that carriers install devices capable of real-time tracking or communication, it is difficult to envision that records from the devices will be any more prone to facilitating “harassment” than paper logs, no matter how harassment is defined.
In addition, Mr. Owen erroneously contended that mandated ELDs must “ensure driver compliance with the hours-of-service rules.” In fact, the statute requires FMCSA to mandate devices that will improve compliance (but not ensure it) and can be used to accurately record drivers’ hours of service.
There can be no doubt that, by being synchronized to the vehicle or capable of knowing when it is being operated, ELDs will improve the recording of driving time. Though recording of on-duty/not-driving time is still subject to input from the driver, its reliability and accuracy can certainly be no worse than entries drivers currently make on paper. Further, because they detect all vehicle movement, ELDs will be more reliable in noting the beginning of a driver’s 14-hour on-duty driving window and, subsequently, duration of a driver’s daily on-duty time.
Finally, Mr. Owen’s statement that carriers that adopt EOBRs will “receive little — or any — return on their investment if implemented” stands in stark contrast to the experience of motor carriers that already have installed the devices. In short, they have found substantial improvement in hours-of-service compliance, which, according to FMCSA data, bears a statistical correlation to reduced crash risk. In addition, these fleets have realized cost-saving operational and administrative benefits.
ATA ardently supported the recent legislation requiring FMCSA to mandate electronic logging devices. Our members chose this course of action after reviewing the available safety and compliance data demonstrating the devices’ benefits. Many also did so after their real-world experience convinced them of the operational benefits, the need for an industrywide mandate to ensure a level competitive playing field and the correlation between improved compliance with the hours-of-service regulations and safety.
President and CEO
American Trucking Associations
Your Dec. 17 issue [p. 5] reported that many had concerns as to the viability of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program safety scores and how they are gathered. Anne Ferro, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, continues to say that this is a work in progress, yet carriers continue to be judged by a system that FMCSA admits it has reservations about.
The last court challenge to the methodology of the CSA program resulted in the Department of Transportation being declared the only arbiter of any issues. Basically, it said that the DOT designation of a carrier was the standard by which a carrier was to be judged.
Our last DOT audit found us to be “satisfactory.” That’s the only grade we are interested in at this point.
Slipstream Expedited Services Inc.
Elk Grove Village, Ill.
If the Department of Transportation thinks that I should take a half-hour break after eight hours of driving, does it take into account that it is reducing my ability to earn a living by at least $2,500 to $3,000 a year?
If that 30-minute “meal break” was in addition to my 14-hour day, I at least would be able to maintain my current standard of living. You take that money away from me, and that’s a pretty big hit on my annual wages.
So, how does it think this will not affect me? Multiply my loss by the number of drivers paid by the mile, and how much of a hit is this on the local/national economy?
Interstate Distributor Co.