Hours, EOBRs: Adapt or fight?
Some operators, like small fleet owner Thomas Blake, have come to stark conclusions about where things are headed for hours enforcement, biting the bullet to improve his six-truck fleet’s CSA numbers by investing in electronic logging and fleet management technology at no small cost and, as J.J. Keller analyst Thomas Bray put it in the story, learning to “operate in that environment” ahead of most of the competition.
Bray believes the electronic-log mandate is a when-not-if sort of question: “The original Insurance Institute and other petitions [for a mandate] go back to the mid-to-late 1980s. Over the years, it’s slowly picked up steam to where the Congress is involved and it’s not going to reverse it’s course. The writing’s on the wall. It’s been around too long there’s too much momentum built.”
All the same, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, as well as no shortage of member owner-operators and others, continue to resist the move — I’ve written about some of those efforts fairly recently here and here. Bray understands such, of course — noting “there’s a lot to be said” for operators’ objections to, combined with hours changes, the “loss of flexibility and the Big Brother situation – ‘you’re recording everything I’m doing down to such detail…’”
Not to mention that electronic logs don’t by themselves automatically produce compliance with the hours regulations, as many members of the general public, including some members of Congress, seem to want to believe. Frequent Channel 19 commenter E.F. McHenry last month delivered the argument against EOBRs this way: “EOBRs produce no more compliance with the HOS rules than the paper logs they are meant to replace. Both rely on the integrity of the driver to be true, or not false. Yet they are being peddled in perpetuity as the gold standard of or for compliance. Nothing could be further from that notion. To understand why EOBRs are no better than paper logs you have to think about two components or aspects of work. Most people tend only to think about the amount of work that will be done or performed. Stopping here is what leads many to accept EOBRs as instruments of compliance. But performing work also involves eligibility. Before any kind of work can be done, we also have to consider whether the worker is eligible to do that work. Here are some examples of eligibility restrictions to work: a) Must be a U.S. citizen, b) Must be of age, c) Must be qualified, d) Must be employed or under contract, e) Must be competent, able or certified, etc. To ignore eligibility is to ignore everthing. It would be tempting to just think of the 10hr sleeper or off-duty time necessary before driving, but I’m thinking about something else here. A log is supposed to show or describe or be a representation of work that was legal to do. Right? Well, if that log doesn’t reflect what was allowed to be done legally then it is considered a false or falsified log. It is true that EOBRs can accurately describe or account for how much the truck moved. But an accurate account of how much a truck moved says nothing about whether or not the truck was eligible to move!”