Personal Injury

Electronic onboard recorders present new, unforeseen problems

EBOR 100x100 Electronic onboard recorders present new, unforeseen problems The federal rule requiring electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs), devices designed to simplify hours of service (HOS) record-keeping for commercial trucks, has created a new set of problems that Truckinginfo.com describes as “complex and messy.”

Just the simple exchange of EOBR data from truck driver to law enforcement officials, for instance, is a lot more complicated than regulators must have imagined. According to Truckinginfo.com, police officers don’t want to enter the cab to look at or retrieve EOBR data because not only would be unsafe for them, truck drivers, they say, would find it intrusive and even harassing.

Printing the EOBR data on-site would require either trucking companies or law enforcement to invest in and carry printers, but expense, compatibility, and security concerns make the prospect unfeasible.

The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MSCAS), a 19-member panel with representatives from the trucking industry, law enforcement, independent drivers, safety advocates, and the Teamsters Union, recently met to seek solutions to the unique problems posed by electronic log keeping. Police representatives in the panel said that budgets are too lean to invest in add-on printers at this time, while some industry executives argued that taxpayers ought to foot the bill. Police would also have to find a printer not only durable enough to take everywhere and use in different weather conditions, they would also need one that is compatible across the EOBR spectrum.

And, while the cost of the printers (upwards of $200 or more on most EOBR models) might be absorbed by large trucking companies relatively easily, smaller carriers and independent drivers might find them financially out of reach.

USB devices that could be plugged into EOBRs and then connected to police computers would be an easy and cheap way of transferring the data, but the security risks are so high that they are “insurmountable.” Truckinginfo.com notes that many states, California included, have banned the use of USB devices in similar applications for fear of bugs, viruses, and security breaches.

So far the only practical option is to either have the truck driver print the log for the past 7 days or, lacking a printer, transcribe the data from the EOBR onto a paper log sheet and certify that the handwritten copy matches the electronic data – an approach that defeats the accuracy, reliability, and ease that led regulators to require EOBRs in the first place.

The EOBR data transfer issue is just one of more than a dozen problems for which the MSCAS is seeking solutions that it can propose to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) by the end of the year. FMCSA authorities regularly call on the MSCAS advisory panel for recommendations.