Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
The trucking industry is facing substantial reforms in the face of recent regulatory activity concerning Hours of Service (HOS) compliance and Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR) requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed new rules for EOBR use. Beginning June, 2012, the FMCSA will require truckers with a 10-percent or greater HOS violation rate during a single compliance review to install EOBRs on all their vehicles to track driver hours. Whether this rule will extend to all motor carriers in the future remains to be seen.
The FMCSA also released a proposal on January 31, 2011 mandating that all motor carriers which are currently required to maintain Records of Duty Status (RODS) for HOS record-keeping to use EOBRs to “systematically and effectively monitor their drivers’ compliance with HOS requirements” within three years of the FMCSA proposal becoming regulation.i
These proposals and regulations being put forward by the FMCSA are addressing a greater ambition to improve HOS compliance through the use of technology. While the recent FMCSA regulations are mandated for those motor carriers with repeated hours of service violations, many fleets are voluntarily adopting EOBRs as a way to enhance safety, improve productivity and reduce costs, in addition to achieving superior compliance results.
The FMCSA estimates that nearly 5,700 interstate carriers will use EOBRs within the first year of the rule’s implementation, and see the use of these devices as a critical way to decrease unsafe driving behavior and increase safety on roads and highways.
Trucking companies are beginning to see the benefits they can realize from implementing technology. Kelly Frey, executive VP of Turnpike Global Technologies reveals that “The typical early adopter is a private fleet. However, we are seeing a new interest in automated logging among the very large national carriers, too. This is not just about safety; it is about implementing the best business practices.”ii
EOBRs: Use and Benefits
An electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) is an electronic device that connects directly to a fleet vehicle’s engine. It records the amount of time the vehicle is being driven, as well as collects engine diagnostic and GPS data to help fleets optimize operations and automate regulatory compliance.
The FMCSA proposal requires EOBRs to record specific information related to a driver’s duty status, including: identity of the driver, duty status, date, time and location of the fleet vehicle, and distance traveled.iii These devices must also provide real-time recording of the vehicle’s location and be tamper-resistant to prevent falsification of HOS information. The April 2010 rule on EOBRs for HOS compliance, also known as the 395.16 regulation, has a number of expanded technical requirements. Under this rule, EOBR’s must enable:
- The recording of location positions using GPS and allow law enforcement personnel to access the information in the device during roadside inspections
- Specifications for internal clock accuracy and data downloaded files, EOBR diagnostics, wireless communication and USB standards to be used
- Specifications for recording driving time, electronic log data requirements, and displays of driver HOS statusiv
As a result of the recent proposals and regulations from the FMCSA, motor carriers face the difficult task of complying with mandated driver logging and HOS requirements. Even for motor carrier companies who are not HOS violators, EOBRs offer many benefits to improve business practices.
The main benefit of EOBRs is increased safety and compliance. By ensuring compliance with HOS regulation, motor carriers that install EOBRs would ensure that their drivers are not driving tired, which has the potential to make the roads safer for other motorists. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cites driver fatigue as a leading cause in large truck accidents.v
Additionally, in a report released by the Department of Transportation (DOT) office of the Inspector General states that “Driver hours-of-service violations and falsified driver logs continue to pose significant safety concerns…During roadside safety inspections, the most frequent violation cited for removing a driver from operation is exceeding allowed hours of service. Use of electronic recorders and other technologies to manage the hours-of-service requirements has significant safety value.vi”
Other individuals in the trucking industry believe that the use of EOBRs and E-Logs creates a wider perception of safety for motor carrier companies. “We believe it sends a message to our customers, law enforcement officials and other motorists about our commitment to safety, to doing things the right way,” says Dave Walter, Tankstar USA, Inc. VP.vii
According to a poll of nearly 1,000 transportation professionals, conducted by J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., more than 40% of respondents named cost as the biggest reason why they are not using E-Logs, despite estimates from the DOT which show that most carriers could see a cost benefit as a result of implementing an EOBR solution.viii
According to Darren Hansen, transportation safety editor at J.J. Keller, “Based on a cost-benefit analysis, the FMCSA estimates the safety benefits of EOBRs to be about $890 per year per power unit.”ix
For motor carrier companies, EOBR benefits extend beyond HOS compliance. Using EOBRs can help a company increase productivity gains, crack down on fuel costs and operate more efficiently.
By adding an EOBR solution to a fleet, companies can make their load planning process more efficient and increase productivity. Visual interactive mapping tools help dispatchers build routes in real-time with factors such as order types, equipment requirements and service levels. Motor carrier companies can also use the system to monitor equipment assignments to minimize resource downtime.
In a 2008 Fleet Owner article, Bill Bishop, Superintendent of Transportation for Price Chopper, a New England supermarket chain with a private fleet of 73 vehicles, explains the value of EOBRs for his company: “I cannot imagine how a fleet could lose productivity by moving to electronic logging…it is an investment in the future.”x
Bill Bishop further explains how this class of technology drives their fleet’s productivity gains: “If you have a system that enables you to look at your fleet in almost real time, then you can do a much better job of dispatching…If we can see that we have five drivers coming back in and the time each one has left, for instance, then we know who we can give which extra loads to.”xi
With EOBR technology, companies can realize improvements in KPI goals such as fuel economy and vehicle optimization. EOBRs can collect driver log and vehicle mileage data which companies can then analyze to make improvements.
By monitoring truck idle time caused by drivers and eliminating incidents of speeding, best-in-class motor carriers have achieved significant operational savings in fuel efficiency (MPG). Best-in-class motor carriers can also use data collected by in-vehicle devices to identify under-utilized assets. For example, if a full-service lease cost for a tractor is $1,600 per month, eliminating only one truck from a fleet would result in a savings of $19,200 per year.
The trucking industry is taking road safety very seriously, and the increasingly rigid hours-of-service regulations are evidence of this. EOBRs play a critical role in ensuring HOS compliance and ultimately increased safety. While implementing EOBRs has not become an industry-wide mandate yet, there are additional compelling reasons to adopt this class of technology: EOBR use is essential for improving productivity and increasing efficiency.
EOBRs provide greater transparency into an operation, allowing companies to identify factors that limit productivity.xii With drivers’ HOS a crucial factor in improving productivity, EOBR technology provides companies with accurate, real-time data, putting them on the leading edge of efficiency and performance.
- Reduce and eliminate DOT violations
- Improve safety ratings
- Realize superior HOS compliance
- Reduce maintenance costs with real-time data
- Improve resource utilization
- Greater efficiency and productivity
- Provide better customer service
- Identify driver performance problems
Thursday, June 9th, 2011
The Ashland Bus System (ABS) operates paratransit buses in the cities of Ashland, Cattlesburg and Westwood, Kentucky. As a relatively small agency, ABS provides over 1200 door-to-door paratransit trips for elderly or disabled passengers each month. In 2009, ABS decided to upgrade their existing scheduling and dispatching software and add mobile data computers to their buses. ABS selected a technology solution which combined Mentor Ranger® in-vehicle computers with Engraph’s ParaPlan GPS 4.0 in the office in hopes of increasing efficiency and ridership. Michele Whitlock, Operations Manager at Ashland Bus System, spoke to us about the impact this technology has had on her agency.
When you decided to equip your fleet with mobile data computers, what was your company looking for in a technology provider?
We were looking for a technology company that can match us in our growth. We are a relatively small operation so we needed something that was adaptable to our needs while being honed down for a smaller operation. Additionally, the system itself needed to be easily adaptable as our needs changed.
How has the system changed how dispatchers interact with drivers?
The greatest improvement is that it’s reduced the amount of chatter we have with one another. It’s a great help that we can communicate electronically with the Rangers. The system has eliminated the verbal chatter over the radios and made it more efficient. Now, we’re not trying to explain something to a driver, they are able to see a written description of what they need to do; and that makes a big difference.
Has the system improved your ability to make on-the-fly schedule changes?
It has as we can transfer trips from one driver to another if they are getting a little backed up. Transferring trips is a very simple process which is great for us.
Do the drivers like the Ranger system?
You know change is not always easy, especially with some of the more veteran staff but they have come to rely on the Rangers. In the rare occasion that we have outages, they have more difficulty than the days when everything is working. They’ve become so used to it and it’s such a part of their daily activity now that they’re a little lost without it; and that’s a good thing.
Has your data entry time been reduced?
Yes, for the office side that’s one of our greatest attributes. There are only three of us that do paperwork, dispatching, call taking, and reporting. The system has really reduced the amount of office time that’s taken up with paperwork, so we can have more time in the field and more time to actually review what’s going on.
From your perspective, what’s the greatest benefit of the system?
We’re seeing the most benefit in the efficiency of our scheduling, both before the day starts and throughout the course of the day with dispatch. Dispatching is now a very easy, simple process. It’s freed us to do many other things because we know we can send a trip in five seconds then go back to what we were doing.
What was your experience with the technology implementation and the support you’ve received?
We’ve had nothing but a positive experience. There are always hiccups along the way no matter what you do but I think the greatest credit is how the resolution has been handled. The service has always been courteous and prompt, we have a great relationship with both technology partners. I would certainly encourage others to come join with us.