Wheels of Justice
Electronic on-board recorders
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Ad-ministration (FMCSA) has said time and time again that they will issue a notice of rulemaking regarding electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in the second half of 2006. The notice of rulemaking is the government’s way of changing the regulations we live by. The latest rumor has it that the notice should be available within the month of October. We’ll see if they do as well as they did with the Hours of Service (HOS) rules in getting them out to the public.
So what are the new EOBR’s going to do for trucking? The first thing is they will be used as electronic logs so the DOT and the company can track the drivers HOS. Currently the first thing DOT wants to see when it comes into a company for an audit is the HOS paperwork. This is a “problem” area for most carriers because they are relying on the driver to complete their logs properly, and we know that sometimes drivers make mistakes on their logs.
Because EOBRs translate into electronic logbooks in everyone’s mind, I went to the horse’s mouth and called Charlie Sake, safety compliance manager for Werner Enterprises in Omaha, NE. Currently, Werner is the only carrier authorized by FMCSA to run electronic logs in the place of paper logs.
According to Charlie, the major recruiting and retention elements of his company are “first, the electronic logs; second, the equipment and third, the ability to meet their drivers’ needs for more choices.”
Every Friday, Charlie goes to the company BBQ and talks with the drivers to see what they have to say about truck driving. “Overall, our drivers believe that electronic logs are valuable, the devices help to keep them legal, they enhance productivity and allow them more time for themselves,” Charlie explained. “They never want to return to paper logs.”
I asked Charlie about how electronic logs are used by DOT for HOS issues and by plaintiff attorneys when the driver is involved in an accident.
“Plaintiff attorneys al-ways seek logs for any accident, and we have to supply them under rules of discovery,” said Charlie. “Our logs are accurate, while paper logs start out with questions of accuracy and stay that way.”
Drivers using EOBRs will be better rested, work less and make more money all because the company can better plan his pickups, his trips and his downtime. As of today, we are still waiting on FMCSA to continue their rule- making process and come up with a rule that every carrier and driver can afford to live with.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.