Proposed federal regulations mandating the use of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs)—often called electronic driver logs or black boxes—have yet to be formally proposed; however, many in the trucking industry believe companies should start adopting them now, as they can offer significant cost savings.

“For starters, the new hours-of-service (HOS) rules that are going into effect [in July] will be difficult to comply with manually using paper logbooks,” explained John Gaither, senior sales executive and engineer for technology provider GPS Insight. “Use of EOBRs will not only reduce the amount of time required to keep logbooks in compliance, they can also help fleets improve their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores as well.”

But one thing, above all others, is that trucking cannot avoid dealing with this technology. It has been mandated for all truckers as part of the highway funding bill, dubbed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, signed into law back in July 2012.

Speaking during a webinar on the subject, Dave Kraft, director of industry affairs for Qualcomm Enterprise Services (QES), said EOBRs do present a series of challenges as well as potential benefits to the trucking industry.

“The timeline for EOBRs established by the MAP-21 funding bill is very straightforward,” Kraft said. “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must issue a final rule on EOBRs by Oct. 1, 2013, with the effective date of implementation Oct. 1, 2015.”

While he noted that MAP-21 is “very specific” on the EOBR timeline, Kraft said FMCSA won’t take a rigid approach to implementation, largely because of the very nature of the regulatory process.

“It’ll take at least a year for whatever rule they propose to become a final rule, so I really wouldn’t expect them to produce a final rule until mid-2014,” he noted. “FMCSA also has to address other issues as well, such as the potential for ‘driver harassment,’ which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn.”