If you live in the river you should make friends with the crocodile.
— East Indian proverb.
Although many long-haulers say they don’t want anything to do with Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBRs) or any technology smacking of Big Brother — a federal mandate requiring EOBRs in all commercial trucks appears inevitable and CSA 2010 could necessitate even further scrutiny via technology.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., has said he is pursuing “comprehensive” EOBR legislation mandating EOBRs for all commercial trucks along with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed EOBRs for negligent carriers only, a measure which would include incentives for companies which voluntarily install the technology.
Will companies and drivers embrace the technology and use it to hopefully help make their jobs easier or will they fight against it tooth-and-toenail? Will they make friends with the crocodile?
An informal driver poll by The Trucker found some drivers think EOBRs for Hours of Service compliance can shift the burden of compliance off their shoulders and onto the companies’. “It is the companies that push drivers to violate [Hours of Service]. This [an EOBR mandate] will take that control out of the companies’ hands and put it to the drivers’ advantage,” responded one driver.
Many fleets “want to control their own destiny and implement the technology now,” said Tom Flies, senior vice president, product marketing of Minneapolis-based Xata Corp., adding that “More and more fleets believe some kind of HOS mandate will be brought forth.”
Companies that already have the technology say it promotes safety and makes the driver’s job easier.
Panther Expedited Services uses Qualcomm’s MCP 100 to generate paperless logs and “the feedback [from drivers] has been really positive,” said Ed Wadel, the company’s chief information officer.
Panther holds two-day training and orientation sessions for their all-owner-operator fleet so that drivers can learn how Qualcomm operates within the Panther system. Included are predetermined macros to get messages from dispatch or other back-office data. A voice remote is mounted on the dash near the steering wheel so that messages can be read back to them and they don’t have to text or talk on the cell phone.
In fact, Wadel and Panther CEO and President Andy Clarke went on a week-long trip delivering freight to get a driver’s perspective on trucking and to see how the communications system works. The trip “gave us a great perspective on issues owner-operators go through every day and how technology is critical to being successful out on the road,” Clarke said. (See related article on Page .)
“We have one customer who said, ‘ … I’ll quit if you put that [technology in my truck],’” said Chris Silver, Qualcomm’s senior manager of product marketing. Now that same customer is saying “I’ll quit if you take it away,” she said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers’ Association (OOIDA) isn’t buying it. They say the technology is costly and raises the red flag on privacy issues.
“Some of the big companies are already using EOBRs and one of the things we’ve pointed out is, if in fact it improves safety you would be able to see it in their accident data but you don’t,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, told The Trucker.
OOIDA sounded the alarm to its members last month that Lautenberg was set to introduce an amendment to the Motor Coach Enhanced Safety Act S554 that would have mandated EOBRs for all commercial vehicles, not just the negligent ones. At the last minute, however, Lautenberg withdrew his amendment, saying he would work on a more comprehensive measure with Hutchison.
Spencer credited OOIDA members’ response in part. “I’m confident many, many, many” members voiced their opposition to Lautenberg’s intended amendment, he said.
An OOIDA news release noted Lautenberg has made no bones about pushing for more than just HOS compliance, saying he also wants the “real-time tracking of driver and vehicle location devices.”
On the other hand, the American Trucking Associations would welcome a Lautenberg measure. “We look forward to working with Sen. Lautenberg and other members of the Senate Commerce Committee to address in a comprehensive manner all of the important safety, policy and technical issues associated with an EOBR requirement,” said ATA Senior Vice President Tim Lynch.
Regardless of what a potential EOBR measure might include, CSA 2010, which will put driver performance under the magnifying glass, may cause carriers to embrace not just EOBRs but the additional technology Lautenberg is pushing.
Monitoring driver performance relative to CSA 2010 is “something we’re definitely looking into,” said Qualcomm’s Silver.
“We’ve got a lot of feedback [from carriers] about how concerned they are [about CSA 2010] and what it will do to the driver pool,” she said, adding that driver retention will again be a major issue when the economy bounces back. “Carriers will need to know their drivers better so they can be more pro active” about their performance.
One use of the technology is critical event reporting (CER), available on the OmniTRACS, MCP100 and MCP platforms. The system can report hard braking incidents, multiple lane departures and if the roll stability equipment is engaged frequently, noted Silver.
Also, “we have a predictive performance service (PPS); it’s a consulting agreement where we have a partner who pulls data from the customer to identify who the riskiest drivers are. We’ve had customers who have seen amazing results [with the] drop in accidents.” PPS is performed through an engagement with the company’s technical services team.
Silver said Qualcomm’s MCP 100 has video training modules for drivers “so if he’s far from a terminal and not driving well or has an accident we can do training over the air.”
She said, “The goal is how to make things as simple for the driver as possible, especially about how to get the right information to him and at the right time without distracting him.”
The future holds even more driver-friendly technology, “very plug-and-play” with little training needed, Silver predicted.
Xata’s Flies agreed. He said Xata’s Turnpike Global Technologies’ system connects to the vehicle engine with a built-in GPS to record fuel economy, diagnostic warnings, all that’s going on with the engine, eliminating the need for a paper log and automating the fuel tax process from end to end. “The