Stories citing the merits (or lack thereof) of electronic onboard recorders appear on an almost daily basis in the trucking industry press, and it’s a frequent topic of conversation in our Xata Nation community, as well.
Are EOBRs a trucking company’s silver bullet, able to vastly improve carrier safety, compliance and profitability? (That’s certainly the position our customer data supports.) Or are they just another tool that will allow a misguided government and/or profit-hungry trucking executive the ability to wield greater control over truckers?
The debate rages on.
And as both sides argue back and forth, one opinion that’s shared over and over is that while EOBRs might hand-deliver productivity improvements to the big wigs at the home office, they offer no tangible benefits to the truck drivers themselves.
We very respectfully disagree.
In our conversations with Xata customers, we’ve certainly heard stories of driver resistance to EOBRs at the outset, but the overwhelming consensus from truckers is that once they’ve used them, they don’t look back.
The fact is EOBRs benefit truckers on the road. Here are 10 great reasons why:
1. More miles on the road means more dollars in your pocket
In our conversations with Xata customers, we often hear that drivers gain significantly more behind-the-wheel time after transitioning from paper logs to electronic driver logs. The FMCSA requires drivers to round up to the nearest 15 minutes when logging on paper, but that increment is reduced to the nearest minute on e-logs. For many drivers, that single factor can translate to an additional 5-10 hours of driving time each week.
2. Zip through roadside inspections with EOBRs
EOBRs enable an enforcement officer to quickly see potential violations in a driver log, including 11 hour driving violations, 14 hour on-duty violations and 60/70 hour violations without flipping through pages of a logbook. Results are clear for an officer to see, limiting inspection times. This translates into more miles under a driver’s belt every day.
3. Operating paperless and headache-free
Truckers don’t choose their profession out of a deep passion for paperwork. Rather, it’s an escape from the cube, the factory line or the warehouse floor where paper management headaches are a common complaint of many employees. And EOBRs help them do just that. All drivers have to do is make sure they’re logged into their EOBR and let it roll. No more paper logs or trip sheets, and never record your mileage at a state line crossing again. All of this means you get to direct more of your energy to the work you enjoy—driving.
4. Error-free logs keep you out of the doghouse
Since e-logs, e-DVIRs, and IFTA fuel tax reporting are automated, you can be sure your paperwork will be free of form and grammar errors, hours will be correctly totaled and logs will always be signed. That means you can avoid those pesky home office calls, demanding information you may no longer have or remember.
5. Audible alerts help you stay Hours of Service compliant
Have you ever found yourself out of hours and miles and miles from a safe place to park? EOBRs help keep truckers on the right side of Hours of Service rules with audible alerts. As their clock begins to wind down for the day, notifications remind them that it’s time to pull over…while there’s still time to pull over somewhere safe.
6. Protect your personal assets and professional reputation with an EOBR
In a recent Xata Nation Facebook discussion, Joshua Ostrander shared that he didn’t support EOBRs, noting that when it comes to accidents, “Not every [professional] driver is the cause, more times than not we are the victim of an accident.”
We understand his concerns. We also think EOBRs could serve to benefit him—and other safe drivers—in the event of an accident. Black boxes accurately capture driver and vehicle behavior immediately before, during and after an accident. That means carriers have a simple way to reconstruct accidents and defend against lawsuits where crashes were caused by other drivers—reducing not only the carrier’s liability, but the potential for personal liability on the part of the driver, as well.
As frequent Xata Nation Facebook contributor, Richard M Gaskill states, “It isn’t just the FMCSA you have to worry about. Little gets by them but what plaintiff’s attorneys turn up in a civil suit discovery make FMCSA auditors look like amateurs.”
EOBRs can also protect a driver’s reputation from accusations of stolen freight. When cargo goes missing and carriers can prove their tractors were nowhere near the scene of the crime, they can substantiate their driver’s innocence with hard data.
7. Increased visibility means the home office can work harder for you
Shippers and receivers are increasingly demanding more real-time data about their freight—where is it, when will it arrive. Before EOBRs, that meant dispatchers had to call drivers for their location, potentially distracting those drivers on the road. Now, dispatchers can pull up a driver’s location on a map and give an accurate location to the customer without any driver interaction.
EOBR asset tracking also means carriers can counter claims from shippers and receivers that drivers were delayed, when they were, in fact, waiting at the location and it was the warehouse personnel that weren’t ready to load cargo.
8. Interoperability of working with other fleets means more opportunity
An electronic system can help an O/O become more profitable, making it easier to move them from run to run based on their remaining available hours of service. Dispatchers can clearly see the hours remaining to help best plan for a safe load
9. Roadside assistance when you need it
Even the best drivers can lose their way or break down. With EOBRs, dispatchers can quickly identify a trucker’s location and get them back on the right road or help direct a nearby tow truck to service the rig.
10. Mobile applications give you more functionality on the road
A mobile device running Xata Turnpike alongside other applications like ALK CoPilot Truck and email can give truckers the tools they need to operate when away from home. They also provide an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends, and many smartphones and tablets provide countless entertainment options to help pass their required off-duty time, as well. Truckers are consumers too – and their tools should fit their lifestyles.
How have EOBRs helped support you on the road?
Bullet #2 edited on 6/20/2012 for clarity.