Electronic On Board Recording devices are used by some trucking companies to track Hours of Service (HOS) compliance by drivers. These devices have been around for many years in different forms. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA, a division of the Department of Transportation), has previously tried to require all trucking companies to install the equipment in all trucks used in interstate commerce. At this time, the FMCSA is restricted to requiring the equipment only when the carrier (or sometimes the driver) is repeatedly found in violation of the HOS rules. However, there will always be career bureaucrats in the government that will try to impose their big brother will on the public.
The theory and the justification of the use of EOBR systems is to insure that the driver(s) are getting the required (by law and common sense) rest necessary to safely operate trucks. HOS laws require 30 minute breaks at least every 8 hours, limit the number of hours of driving without breaks, limit the number of work hours total before a rest break of 8 or more hours, and the maximum number of hours/work during a typical week without substantial time off duty.
Cheating an Electronic On Board Recording system
Although the Electronic On Board Recording can track the truck if it is moving or stopped, most systems can not (automatically) detect the difference between if the driver is on lunch break in a restaurant or is sitting in the office doing paperwork. A driver that is a chronic abuser of HOS regulations will still be able to tweak their activities – but it will be far more restricted then just using a paper log book. Since the system will record when the truck is moving, it will be impossible for the driver to record time not driving when in fact they are. However, the driver could still manipulate some activities such as recording sleeper berth when they are in fact doing other chores such as truck maintenance. An example of HOS cheating with EORB is, although the HOS rules require that a driver may only start a new day of driving (driving up to 11 hours in the first 14 hours of going on-duty) after 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time (no work). But if the driver parks the truck and manually puts the EOBR in a duty status of “off-duty” for 10 hours, while the driver actually performs work and is, in fact, “on-duty” for part or all of those 10 hours. The EOBR would report the driver is permitted by the rules to start a new period of 11 hours of driving, when in fact, the driver would be in violation of the HOS rules the moment the driver begins driving the truck. The value of the EORB depends 100% on who you talk to.
Anti-truck groups and proponents of big brother control advocate a system that tracks driver activity to the point that it (the system) knows if the driver is even in the cab, sitting in the driver’s seat, in the bunk, etc. Some trucking companies likely would like this level of control also as they want to milk every possible of driving minute from their employees. Many truck drivers (and their company’s owners) would like to eliminate all use of EOBR system as it is an intrusion into their freedom. Some people became truck drivers to get away from the BOS (boss over shoulder) syndrome. However, EOBR have greatly increased HOS compliance, especially by habitual offenders such as drivers that carried multiple log books in an attempt to completely bypass the safety goals of HOS rest requirements.
Electronic On Board Recording devices are here to stay for the trucking industry. Rather then just complaining about them as a problem, truck drivers and trucking companies need to learn to get maximum value from the systems. EOBR systems can greatly increase driver utilization by allowing the drivers to actually get their maximum number of hours being productive. In cases where drivers are also repeatedly detained at docks waiting to load or unload, this information can be documented and the shipper billed for the delays, or at least pick up delivery schedules can be adjusted to reduce wasted time and resources.
At this time, there are no GPS or smart phone apps that qualify as an Electronic On Board Recording system, although some EOBRs contain GPS like features.