ATRI releases findings on electronic onboard recorders

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The American Transportation Research Institute today, Sept. 12, released results from its industry analysis of electronic onboard recording devices for hours-of-service monitoring. The research, which precedes the fall release of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rulemaking on EOBRs, collected and analyzed data on numerous factors relating to EOBR usage, functionality, pricing and potential impacts of an EOBR mandate.

Surveys and interviews of EOBR users, nonusers and system vendors were conducted and analyzed in concert with analyses of secondary research and stakeholder responses to the original docket.

The research indicates that EOBR usage today is low, primarily due to overall system costs, a lack of EOBR safety and productivity returns-on-investment, and concern over what functionalities and standards will be needed should a mandate be promulgated. The enforcement community also is concerned about data privacy and data access issues since there are few policies and protocols available for utilizing EOBR data to monitor HOS compliance.

However, the ATRI research does contradict nonuser perceptions that EOBRs would negatively impact driver morale and retention. A surprising 76 percent of EOBR users responded that EOBR usage improved driver morale, and 19 percent said EOBRs improved driver retention. No EOBR user respondents stated that driver retention was harmed by EOBR usage.

“We know there are long-standing perceptions associated with EOBRs, but this research gives us insight into the statistical realities that can only be provided by EOBR users,” stated Doug Duncan, ATRI chairman and president of FedEx Freight. “Clearly there are still issues that must be resolved prior to any mandate, but we now have a blueprint for resolving those issues.”

Another area of ATRI’s analysis considered the impact that an EOBR mandate might have on different industry sectors and fleet sizes. Based on EOBR unit pricing, estimated ROI levels and overall management costs, the research determined that small fleets and owner-operators will be hardest hit by a mandated investment in EOBRs.

However, the research offered several strategies for minimizing cost impacts, including investment tax credits and bulk-purchase pricing options. There was also general recognition that certain industry segments, such as local pickup and delivery services, may not be appropriate targets for an EOBR mandate. However, carriers do believe that a broad mandate would create a “level playing field” for HOS compliance.

The ATRI research identified different technical approaches used by carriers for managing, protecting and accessing data, but did not propose any technical requirements or practices since that effort is being undertaken by a committee of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council.

Several vendors indicated strong concern with a mandate based on a lack of EOBR uniformity, interoperability and data standards. Consequently, the ATRI research recommended that the FMCSA rulemaking provide early guidance to the standards development process to ensure that vendors are able to develop appropriate requirements.

Finally, the research indicates that EOBRs will be most effective when their usage equates directly to safety outcomes. There was considerable consensus among users, nonusers and vendors that EOBRs are effective at managing and monitoring HOS compliance, but additional research is needed to document the role that HOS compliance plays in fatigue management and any related safety improvements.

According to Al Koenig, president of Midwest Specialized Transportation, “As a compliance tool, it appears that EOBRs can meet FMCSA’s need for improved HOS monitoring. But we still need to address certain safety loopholes, such as improved confirmation of who is driving and whether EOBRs will increase speeding to offset potential productivity losses.”

For a copy of ATRI’s EOBR research, visit ATRI online at