Letters: EOBRs and Waiting, Load Securement

These Letters to the Editor appear in the April 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

EOBRs and Waiting

To improve our scores with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, many of us have worked diligently to put electronic onboard recorders in our trucks.

We have had good success with this program, and I’m happy to say that most of our drivers like the EOBR — once they get used to it. There was a learning curve, but once they understood the EOBR, they all commented on how much stress had been removed from their jobs.

Additionally, the motor carrier is now able to get true measurements of potential productivity.

We are teaching our driver managers how to make their trucks and drivers more productive and successful. Being able to measure things like unused drive time at the end of each day has really encouraged competition between driver managers. As they reduce this number and keep our drivers moving more productively, we are all more successful.

Freight moves more efficiently, unit productivity increases and driver paychecks grow. Profits improve for all of us.

However, speaking as a former independent owner-operator, one very unfair aspect of EOBRs is found when drivers are unable to park at the receiver.

I’ll give you an example: If I have an unloading that will take five or six hours, and I can make it to a receiver that allows me to park there, I can arrive a few hours early and begin my 10-hour break.

If I am not required to attend the unloading, it can take place during my break, and I lose no efficiency.

When I am empty, I can finish my break and hit the road with a fresh 11 and 14 to work. Life is good!

Now take this same load to a place where the receiver will not allow parking. This will force me to stop and take my break 5 to 10 miles away at the nearest truck stop. To make the delivery, I now have to start my day on the EOBR to drive the 5 miles to the receiver. Then, as I go back to the sleeper and wait the five to six hours to unload, I still burn my 14. When unloaded, five or six hours later, I now have only seven or eight hours to be productive and generate revenue.

Neither scenario affects fatigue nor the ability to safely operate, but you can see the huge advantage gained by receivers that allow on-site parking.

This could have a great economic effect on pricing if we don’t find a way to fix it.

Finding a way to modify this limitation of the EOBR system could go a long way toward making our industry more productive without increasing risk.

Of course, we always can raise prices and charge more for inefficiencies, but I believe that real success comes from removing inefficiencies — and I see this as one. I know EOBRs are the way of the future, and I believe in them, but I am concerned.

How long will it take the shippers or receivers to figure it out and start charging for parking so truckers can save drive time?

Will the trucking industry have to start raising rates because we lose so much productivity on location at shippers/receivers that don’t allow parking?

How much could this little issue affect the total economy?

Is there a solution FMCSA can provide? For example, how about allowing an “arrival at shipper/consignee” on the EOBR so that the driver can avoid starting his/her day only to drive a short distance to deliver? Everyone wants to be safe and legal, and EOBRs go a great way to even the playing field for our industry, but I’m sure you can see where they work against common sense in this scenario.

Michael Hitchcock

Corporate Director of Driver Development

Knight Transportation


Load Securement

Your last article concerning load securement was in July 2010. You need to publish another letter. There are still shippers out there shipping tin plate on pallets with only plastic banding on them. All you have to do is stop quickly for a green light that goes yellow and the product moves on the skids, causing the plastic bands to break right away. The shipper says it is legal to ship this way — and then holds the driver responsible for damage.

What happens is that they make us block pallets with 2-by-4s and then put flat tinplate on pallets with only plastic bands to hold them. It’s true that steel banding hurts the product, and the customer won’t accept it if it’s damaged. They need to invest in plastic corner protectors and then put the steel banding over the plastic. The problem is that it costs more to do it that way.

Regional Driver

Name and Company Withheld by Request

Lancaster, Pa.