Electronic on-board recording devices (commonly referred to as EOBRs) have been a subject of debate in the trucking industry, especially recently with the passage of the The 2012 Surface Transportation Extension Act by the Senate which would require the mandatory installation of EOBRs on all trucks.
Against this proposal are groups (including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) who believe that the devices would lead to driver harassment, pressure to meet their quota and therefore driving tired and enforcing safety hazards, along with the expensive cost of $525 and $785 per truck.
On the other hand, there are groups (which include the American Trucking Associations, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and many more) who support the proposal believing that EOBRs would lead to greater safety through HOS compliance, saving time by ridding of paper logs, and better accuracy.
But do EOBRs come with another benefit to an ongoing problem in the trucking industry…detention?
As a driver, have you ever pulled into a dock for a pickup only to find a long line of trucks ahead of you? You end up sitting there two and half hours, still waiting to be loaded. What do you do? Do you pull the truck and waste the driver’s time, fuel, and accumulate empty miles or do you wait it out? This detention not only threatens the next shipment on the driver’s truck being late, but also takes away from a driver’s allowed hours of service.
With a strict 11-hour driving limit, many drivers explain that they are being forced to cheat on their logs either due to financial reasons or because their employer is making them. As one individual commented, “Drivers cheat on their logs because the job doesn’t pay what it should and they need the extra time & money. Average truckers work over 70 hours a week without a penny of overtime. Companies threaten to have drivers sit for days if they don’t cheat.” 1
Another reason drivers provided for cheating on their logs, as mentioned earlier, was detention.
Let’s say you were detained at a shipper’s dock for three hours. This drastically reduces the amount of time you now have left on the road while complying with your hours of service. Since many drivers are paid by the mile, this now reduces that driver’s income, and therefore, the driver is more prone to “fix” their hours to have more time on the road.
According to a recent study, “More than 80% of drivers reported that they were unable to comply with the Hours of Service regulations after being “unduly detained” at loading docks.” 2
As OOIDA states, drivers are spending up to 40 hours a week on docks, sometimes for days, costing the industry $3 billion annually and becoming the biggest efficiency problem in trucking. On top of that, OOIDA mentions the problem with compliance due to detention time spent on docks, causing drivers to lose productivity and, in return, higher the costs of consumer goods.
Last summer we witnessed initiatives, such as HR 756 and extending the FMCSA’s authority, in an effort to reduce the number of hours drivers are detained at docks to pick up or deliver a shipment. This month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided to conduct “two important studies to examine how wait times and driver pay affect driver behavior.” 2
Meanwhile, in order to compensate for detainment, many trucking companies are charging shippers/receivers detention fees, typically providing the first two hours free and charging for additional time.
But charging for detention does not always mean that the carrier will receive it. As one carrier utilizing a third-party for its loads notes, “If at the two hour mark I call the broker and complain, I usually hear something like: ‘I’ll call the shipper and see about detention.’ This is a kiss-off.” 3
But many truck drivers/companies believe that EOBRs can help. How? One word…proof.
Let’s face it, we live in a world that requires a “see it to believe it attitude.” If you can’t prove that you were at the dock from time this time to that time, I’m not paying.
One carrier utilizing EOBRs labeled it a “powerful tool” when it came to customers known for detaining drivers. As he noted, “Given that stopped time and location is easily retrievable with the systems, I now have ready-made documentation to prove detention time to the shipper, beyond just me or my drivers’ word.” 4
Do you think EOBRs can be a solution to driver detention? List your comments at http://gsfn.us/t/2uev4.