Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs or Electronic Logs) streamline the logging of driver hours, maintenance records, and other useful analytics, making them a popular and cost-effective alternative to traditional paper-based logging.
What is an EOBR?
For many bus and commercial truck drivers, log books are a fact of life. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates drive time and rest periods, and mandates that detailed logs are kept by each individual driver's hours of service. This is done to reduce accidents due to operators driving while fatigued or distracted, increasing safety while reducing fatalities.
Electronic On-Board Recorders, which have been in use for over a decade, promise to introduce more accuracy and accountability into the logging process while also giving users access to other metrics that can improve tracking and performance.
Electronic logs are often known by, or confused with, other names. The Electronic On-Board Recorders standard has been in existence since the early 2000s, and is specifically defined in the FMCSA's Regulation 395.16 “Electronic On-Board Recorders for Hours of Service Compliance” (more on that below).
Electronic logs are sometimes also referred to as:
- ELD (Electronic Logging Devices)
- EDL (Electronic Driver Logs)
- EDR (Event Data Recorder, in effect a "black box" for trucks)
- Digital Tachograph (fully automated, and most commonly used in the EU)
- AOBRD (Automatic On-Board Recording Device, delineated in FMCSA 395.15, 1988)
What Does the Electronic Log Do?
EOBRs are capable of gathering a wide variety of metrics, with the data gathered generally depending on the service plan for which the end user has signed up. These metrics include (but are not limited to) driver and vehicle compliance, maintenance tracking, CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) tracking, E-Log and E-DVIR (Driver Vehicle Inspection Report) auditing, idle time and fuel usage tracking, GPS navigation data, and fuel tax reporting.
The FMCSA maintains a national database containing data on each of the truck and bus companies under its purview. In addition to HOS data, the database also tracks incidents of unsafe driving, impaired driving, crashes, cargo issues, vehicle maintenance, and driver fitness.
The Agency isn't the only one paying attention; insurance companies base their rates on these metrics, while shippers and consumers may use the data when choosing a carrier. Equipping the carrier with the same intelligence, therefore, allows an anticipatory approach that heads off small issues before they become major problems, as well as a more proactive approach to addressing larger issues as they arise.
The EOBR Mandate
The FMCSA, with the support of some trade groups, first proposed mandatory electronic log installation for carriers with a history of HOS violations in 2007, while also providing incentives for voluntary use. By 2012, proposals were floated to make general use mandatory.
Public comment on Section 395.16, which has been met with widespread resistance and legal challenges, has closed. The results of the impact study (discussed here) are expected toward the end of Q1 2015, with the law taking effect some time after. The relevant part of the law (which is expected at the Cornell Legal Information Institute) proposes that commercial vehicles manufactured after June 4, 2012 (i.e., the 2013 model year and later) would be required to have an electronic log device installed; this date will change depending on when the law takes effect.
The results of the impact study are expected toward the end of Q1 2015, with the law taking effect some time after. The relevant part of the law proposes that commercial vehicles manufactured after June 4, 2012 (i.e., the 2013 model year and later) would be required to have an EOBR device installed; this date will change depending on when the law takes effect.
The law's second section specifies the information that must be gathered by the logbook software (with each provision being further clarified in subsequent sections). From 395.16:
|Information Which Must Be Gathered By An Electronic Log|
|1.||Name of driver and any co-driver(s), and corresponding driver identification information (such as a user ID and password). However, the name of the driver and any co-driver is not required to be transmitted as part of the downloaded file during a roadside inspection.|
|3.||Date and time.|
|4.||Location of CMV.|
|6.||Name and USDOT Number of motor carrier.|
|7.||24-hour period starting time (e.g., midnight, 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m.).|
|8.||The multiday basis (7 or 8 days) used by the motor carrier to compute cumulative duty hours and driving time.|
|9.||Hours in each duty status for the 24-hour period, and total hours.|
|10.||Truck or tractor and trailer number.|
|11.||Shipping document number(s), or name of shipper and commodity.|
While this regulatory regime hasn't yet gone into full effect, carriers can see benefits by incorporating logbook software systems early (examples are shown below). The good news is that if your fleet already uses a Telematics system, a simple application or software patch can enable the system to gather EOBR-compliant data.
In the event that your fleet has not previously used electronic logs specifically, or Telematics more generally, there are a host of options available both for sale and for lease. Similar to general Telematics systems, logbook software works in conjunction with the vehicle's existing sensors, and use a software suite or specific applications -- often working through Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices -- for monitoring and control.
Pricing is, as one would expect, variable, with add-ons to existing systems costing less than the installation of an entirely new EOBR suite. Broadly speaking, one should consider the cost not only of the system, but also of installation, training, maintenance, and fleet downtime. Careful planning will ensure not only a cost-effective solution, but also minimize financial and functional impact on your business.
LTL (Less Than Load) trucking company Con-way Freight installed DriveCam EOBR systems on 8,600 of its tractors over a four-month timeframe, demoing the benefits of EBORs. The company was able to leverage the performance metrics provided by the EBORs to streamline its delivery system, improving its on-time performance, cutting fuel consumption, improving drivers' situational awareness and behavior, and cutting costs overall. In short, EBOR systems aren't mere logging tools; used correctly, they can supplement -- or even, with the right software, act as -- the backbone of a company's fleet management.
New regulations cause needless, if understandable, apprehension and headaches for large carriers and individual operators alike. Understanding the regulatory regime demystifies the process and makes the way forward more apparent. However, that should only be viewed as an interim step. A bit of thought, creativity, and the right EOBR suite have the potential to take Electronic On-Board Recorders beyond mere monitoring and metrics, enabling them to be a definite asset in running your business.