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Will EOBRs miss another deadline?

In the coming year, one of the major questions the trucking industry hopes to have resolved is whether or not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will mandate the use of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs)?

This year, a section was added to the highway bill that obligates the FMCSA to issue a final EOBR rule by October 1, 2013. The October deadline would give the White House time to review the rule before it is slated to into effect in January, 2014. Before the agency can issue a final rule, it must first issue a proposed rule. The agency has been planning to release a proposal in March, 2013, to give the public and the industry time to comment and make revisions to the rule before making it final.

If the agency misses the self-imposed March 2013 deadline, it could limit the amount of time fleets and drivers have to review and comment on the new rule. The Department of Transportation has admitted that March appears unlikely. In its November status report it stated that a proposed rule is likely to come two months later in May, 2013.

In the agency’s defense, the EOBR mandate has become a very complicated process. The agency had to shelve its prior EOBR rule, 395.16, after a federal appeals court vacated the rule in response to a lawsuit that argued EOBRs could be used by fleets to harass drivers to be more productive. The proposal must therefore address the harassment issue in its proposal. It must also update the technical specifications for EOBRs.

Dave Kraft, director of industry affairs for Qualcomm and an expert in the EOBR rule making process, says that because FMCSA will likely miss the March deadline, it will not be able to issue a final rule by October, 2013. He anticipates that the agency will publish a final rule in the fall of 2014, almost a year later than planned.

“The reality is that this is a big, complex rule,” he says. “To get to the final rule, the agency has to take all of the input, develop responses, make changes, and take (the rule) through another review process. We are looking at mid-to-late 2014 for the final rule to be published.”

The EOBR rule (395.16) that was vacated included a two-year window from the time the final rule was published to the time enforcement began. Fleets and drivers would therefore have two years to purchase compliant EOBRs. If the rule had been passed in 2012,  therefore, enforcement would have started in 2014. Another reason for having a two-year window was to allow technology providers time to comply with the new technical specifications for EOBRs.

“After 395.16 was vacated, that two year ramp-up time doesn’t really exist,” Kraft says. “We probably need a four to five-year window to get everything in place. That’s a more realistic assessment of the timeline,” Kraft says.

If Kraft’s assessment is correct, the mandate for EOBRs will not begin to be enforced until 2018 at the earliest. Until then, fleets can continue to use paper logs. If the trends continue, a mandate may not even be necessary because the overwhelming majority of fleets and drivers will be using electronic logs to eliminate logbook violations from their CSA scores and to protect themselves from other areas of risk.  

Old Trucker Now Owner
Old Trucker Now Owner

In my opinion the EOBR's do not answer several questions. One, if a driver spends 15 minutes at a truckstop looking for a space to park, is that time counted against him or her. What does a driver do when they run out of hours and they are still 15 miles short of the next rest stop or truck stop. Do they simply pull on the side of the road and be a hazard. I understand that the EOBR will be hell on the individual who simply chooses to purposely exceed their allowed driving hours. What it does is hurts the safe driver who has to exceed a short time to get to a safe location or stop way before his time runs out because it may take a little longer to get to where he needs to be. Productivity will end in this scenario. What about the driver who wants to go to a movie, will that count as driving time against his hours. I drove for a long time in the 70's through part of the 90's and yes I had to fudge on the logs back then. We need to have some common sense in this issus and make sure that the electronics systems so no become judge and jury.

Gordon A
Gordon A

Giving the white house a chance to review it is like putting a bowl of ice cream in the sun and hoping it doesn't melt.  A complete waste of energy and time. Tell me again how the EOBRs will make our highways safer.  So far it is all gibberish and double talk. I see only two  things beneficial to truckers. One is it will eliminate or greatly reduce the dispatchers from pushing the driver to run illegal or when unsafe.

Two.  it will be a record of  your driving time that is not doctored and is available to far too many to change to lessen the punishment if due.

No other benefits are there with the EOBRs.

Just an ankle bracelet to monitor you in your 6X7 cell driving down the road.

Gordon A
Gordon A

 @Old Trucker Now Owner  You make some very valid points. However they will never be considered by the talking heads in DC. It just does not fit their agenda to have any negative thoughts against their plan for control.

Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 14 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.