In June, Congress debated a proposal that would require commercial truckers to install electronic on-board recorders “EOBRs” on their tractors.  EOBRs are similar to, though less sophisticated than, the “black boxes” that we hear about on commercial aircraft.  The proposal is part of the 2012 transportation and infrastructure bill and is designed to make our roadways safer by ensuring that truckers do not violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations.

Currently, many large trucking companies use EOBRs to track their drivers’ hours of service, whereas smaller fleets and owner-operators rely on paper logs that are easily manipulated and oftentimes falsified.  Not surprisingly, the 150,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association “OOIDA” has vigorously opposed the proposal and argued, without any concern for safety, that the devices will invade the drivers’ privacy, won’t increase record-keeping accuracy and will needlessly increase drivers’ operating expenses.

However, the American Trucking Associations “ATA,” which is the nation’s largest trucking industry trade association and counts many of the nation’s largest trucking companies as members, supports the EOBR mandate.  In a recent USA Today article, ATA’s spokesman, Sean McNally, was quoted as saying, “[o]ur fleet members who are using (recorders) tell us it cuts down on hours of service violations, make it less burdensome to do paperwork, that they have fewer violations and comply with (federal) rules more effectively.”

Dan Osterberg, a senior vice president of safety and security at Schneider National, a 13,000-truck fleet and member of ATA, stated that the company saw a “significant reduction in crashes after it installed and mandated the use of EOBRs.  In the USA Today article, Mr. Osterberg stated that Schneider National did a study of crashes involving its trucks over a four year period and found that fatigue was the No. 1 cause of crashes at that time.  Following its installation and use of EOBRs in 2010, Osterberg was quoted as saying that “we’ve seen a significant reduction in fatigue-related crashes, in fatality crashes and in injury crashes.”

Clearly, in the experience of the trucking industry’s biggest players, the use of EOBRs makes our roadways safer by keeping fatigued drivers off of the road.  In acknowledgment of the safety benefits of EOBRs, auto club AAA and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance have joined ATA in urging Congress to adopt the EOBR mandate.  We can only hope that the voice of safety will be heard the loudest by the ears of Congress.