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Five major U.S. trucking companies endorse EOBRs for all commercial trucks

New bill Would require Electronic On Board Recorder
By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor
September 29, 2010

WASHINGTON—Five leading U.S. trucking companies are calling for federal regulations that would require all interstate trucking companies to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) on all their trucks to verify legal duty status of their drivers.

The “Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act” already has been introduced by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that would require trucks have these devices within three years.

The companies endorsing the bill are five giants in the truckload sector—Schneider National (second-largest TL carrier by revenue), U.S. Xpress (fourth largest), J.B. Hunt Transportation Services (fifth largest), Knight Transportation (10th largest), and Maverick USA, a major flatbed carrier with more than $300 million in revenue.

These companies are forming an industry coalition, “Alliance for Driver Safety & Security,” to urge Congress to pass this and other legislation designed to improve highway safety. These companies’ CEOs are recommending all transportation firms embrace the legislation and support the safety effort.

“Electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) will improve safety on our nation’s highways by applying technology to document driver compliance to the hours of service rules,” says Craig Harper, J.B. Hunt chief operating officer. “Early evaluation of the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA 2010) data suggests that carriers with higher levels of hours of service compliance have lower crash involvement.”

The legislation would install an electronic device that would identify the truck driver, record his or her driving status, and could monitor the location and movement of the vehicle.

These executives say the legislation to modernize safety. As currently construed, a driver’s hours of service is written in paper “log books” to verify compliance with hours of service regulations, which are under review by the federal government.

The current system is rife with fraud, said drivers, who often ridicule the paper log books by calling them “comic books.” It is not unusual for drivers to maintain two sets of logs—one to get paid, cover actual hours; the other fictitious, to stay within the legal hours set by the government. Installing EOBRs would eliminate much of the guesswork.

“This legislation is a sensible initiative to improve working conditions for commercial drivers and to promote highway safety,” says Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Knight Transportation. “Under a uniform standard, the public will be able to rely n the hours of service of all drivers, rather than just some drivers.”

Mandating use of EOBRs commits the entire supply chain, including shippers, to meeting the challenges of Just-in-Time ground transportation, says Maverick CEO Steve Williams, a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

“The trucking industry operates in an environment that is becoming increasingly more complex and congested,” Williams said. “All stakeholders must be assured that the people who are privileged to operate commercial vehicles are well trained, drug- and alcohol-free and sufficiently rested.”

Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety for Schneider National, says the current HOS are science-based and reasonable. He says the problem isn’t with the rules, but with a lack of compliance.

“Electronic logging devices take the non-compliance issues off the table,” Osterberg says. “Given limited enforcement resources, there are carriers whose value proposition is that they’ll accept risk that compliant carriers will not accept. In short, they play ‘catch me if you can’ with the Department of Transportation. They are rarely caught. This doesn’t serve our industry or public safety well.”

Osterberg says the “inherent looseness” of the current system of paper logs fosters this behavior as they can be easily manipulated in a driver’s favor. “Electronic logs, by comparison, are difficult to manipulate and make it nearly impossible to falsify records of hours worked.”

U.S. Xpress Co-Chairman and President Pat Quinn says his $1.4 billion company began implementing EOBRs about three years ago and is currently expanding it throughout his fleet. “In our experience, our drivers have adapted well to the use of electronic logs,” says Quinn, another former ATA chairman.

“It has made our drivers and our operation more efficient,” Quinn says flatly. “We believe that it also helped our company to maintain our high standards for safety.”

Trucking industry officials said it was probably too late for Congress to act on this measure this year. Rather, they are focusing on 2011 as the time for its passage, when a five-year highway reauthorization bill also is up for debate.

About the Author

John D. Schulz
Contributing Editor

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. He is known to own the fattest Rolodex in the business, and is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis. This wise Washington owl has performed and produced at some of the highest levels of journalism in his 40-year career, mostly as a Washington newsman.

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