Feds Want to Require On-Board Recorders for Big Trucks

“The goal is to get more trucks and buses using innovative safety technologies,” says John H. Hill, of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “like on-board recorders that will improve safety on our nation’s roads.”

According to the FMCSA, Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) would be used to track driver activity, including such basic data as identity, duty status, date, time, location of the commercial vehicle and distance traveled.

In an attempt to thwart the “likelihood of falsification of HOS (hours of service) information,” says the FMCSA, there is a requirement to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology or some similar tracking system to automatically locate the vehicle.

Incentives to be offered carriers who voluntarily install EOBRs include random sampling of driver duty status records as part of the company’s compliance review and some relief from the necessity of supplying HOS required documents.

Even before the ink was dry on the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register, opposition was lining up to the new regulations. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents, claims that the proposed rules would still allow, “nearly all motor carriers to continue to operate in interstate commerce with worthless, widely falsified paper logbooks.” Jacqueline Gillan, the group’s vice president notes that, “The proposed rule is so weak that even the tiny percentage of truck or bus companies that might be required to use EOBRs––only a little more than one-tenth of one percent––will be allowed to remove them after only two years of use. Furthermore, the agency is not proposing to require EOBRs to record other critical information such as the speeds of trucks and buses.”

The real HOS issues related to fatigue aren’t necessarily the amount of time drivers spend behind the wheel, claims the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), but rather the number of hours they spend each week on loading and unloading docks that won’t be captured by EOBRs.

In a statement on the proposed rules, the OOIDA argues that, “The FMCSA’s solution to HOS enforcement goes long on Big Brother and short on the real issue. FMCSA continues to ignore the inescapable fact that such devices are no more capable than paper logs in providing an accurate record of a driver’s compliance with the rules. As long as an EOBR records only the movement of a truck, and requires a driver to manually input his or her on-duty not driving time, it will fail to be what EOBR supporters wish them to be––a tamper-proof record of HOS compliance.”

In order to get a copy of the notice go to the January 18, 2007 Federal Register or request it at [email protected].

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