Trucking news: On-board recorders run into legal static from owner-operators

image
By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor
July 08, 2010 - LM Editorial

WASHINGTON — When it comes to electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), independent truck driver owner-operators have one message to the government: stay out of my business.

The group representing the nation’s 1 million or so owner-operators has filed preemptive lawsuit in anticipation of the government’s first attempt to mandate EOBRs — or “black boxes,” as they are known in trucker-speak.

Even though government’s rule doesn’t take effect until 2012, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association has filed a preliminary legal challenge in anticipation of a broader mandate coming out of Washington that might affect all truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has pretty much hinted as much.

OOIDA recently filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal on black boxes. For now, the government says it only wants to mandate those devices—which are about the size of a Bible and cost between $2,000 and $3,000—on those “bad apple” carriers and drivers who have shown egregious safety violations.

Shippers should care about these devices because typically any large cost absorbed by their carriers—whether company drivers or owner-operators—is passed onto shippers through higher rates.

OOIDA officials say they fear once this first proposed limited rule goes into effect, it’s only a matter of time before a larger, broader rule gets issued requiring the black boxes in all trucks. The black boxes are widely in use in Europe and elsewhere. In fact, trucks operating within the European Union are required to have EOBRs, which eliminate paper logs and greatly increase compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

The issue is a hot-button one for drivers. For one thing, some drivers view the black boxes as an invasion of privacy, another example of creeping “Big Brother” government invading their in-cab space.

“The rest of the story is this agency (FMCSA) has pretty much made it clear this is the first step. They’ve kind of tipped their hands that they intend to go much further, said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive director. “We have pointed out the shortcomings for years.”

For one thing, OOIDA claims that companies that have utilized the black boxes have no better safety ratings than companies that do not. Privacy is another concern. Data from a trucker involved in an accident could be used in any legal proceeding. Another issue is cost. At a time when all truckers are facing an increasing regulatory burden and higher fuel costs, OOIDA says these black boxes could not survive a rigid cost/benefit analysis.

“Electronic on-board recorders are no more accurate than paper logs they replace,” Spencer says. “These costs will be dumped on small business owners.”

Spencer says OOIDA’s lawsuit is about justifying the perceived benefits. “They’ve got to be able to justify it—or forget about it.”

The issue also reopens old wounds in the owner-operator/big company schism. On one side is OOIDA, which has 155,000 members. On the other side is the American Trucking Associations, which has more than 27,000 company members. ATA has come out in favor of the black boxes, saying they improve safety and would save lives.

ATA President Bill Graves long has supported what he calls an “incentive-based approach” to trucking regulation compliance, including EOBRs. Last April, FMCSA issued a final rule mandating EOBRs for carriers, which the DOT has found during a compliance review to have a pattern of hours of service violations. The rule provides incentives for compliant carriers to adopt the use of such devices voluntarily and sets forth certain device design/performance specifications.  The rule will become effective in June 2012.

So even though the effective date is still two years away, OOIDA says the time to act is now.

“The legal issues this raises have to be addressed—and addressed now,” Spencer says. “You can’t wait on those things. That dog doesn’t hunt.”



About the Author

image
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.


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

NRF's Jonathan Gold explains that the past year was replete with disruptions, slowdowns and partial shutdown, which can no longer be the norm, saying ports and dockworkers must adapt to ensure they provide shippers with the predictability and stability they need.

Last month, I gave a presentation to a group of senior transportation and supply chain executives. It was entitled “Predictable Surprises,” because it addressed how transportation and supply chain professionals can eliminate unpleasant surprises by looking at and evaluating issues in the transportation industry, and projecting how those issues will affect their companies.

The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) said this week that they have formally established working groups, which they said will aim to seek new supply chain efficiencies, and focus on various aspects of port operations, including peak operations and terminal optimization in an effort to augment the San Pedro Bay port complex.

A month ago, the Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) from freight transportation consultancy FTR indicated that shippers might be traveling on a rocky road in the coming months. And one month later it appears those concerns appear to have been confirmed.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) had nothing but praise for the Senate passage over the past weekend of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015).

Article Topics

News · Motor Freight · All topics

About the Author

Jeff Berman, News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA