FMCSA wants on-board recorders for worst HOS violators

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today announced a proposal that would require bus and truck carriers with histories of serious hours-of-service (HOS) regulations non-compliance to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBR)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today announced a proposal that would require bus and truck carriers with histories of serious hours-of-service (HOS) regulations non-compliance to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) within two years of a final rule and operate the recorders for at least two years. Violating carriers that already had equipped their vehicles with automatic on-board recording devices meeting agency standards — and could demonstrate to FMCSA that its drivers understand how to use the devices — would be exempt from new installations.

The proposal only covers HOS and does not require any “black box” functions such as automated recording of vehicle speeds, brake applications and other vehicle operating data.

For mandatory EOBR installation, a carrier would have to have exhibited a 10% or greater violation rate based on HOS records reviewed during each of two compliance reviews conducted within a two-year period, according to John H. Hill, FMCSA Administrator. “By focusing on the problem carriers, we can drive down [the non-compliance] rates,” he said.

If the regulations were to be issued today, about 930 of 650,000 commercial carriers would be subject to mandatory installations, Hill said. He added that the agency today did not have available any statistics on the fleet size of the typical scofflaw carrier, only that it affected about 17,500 drivers. He noted that these violations were carrier-based and that a mandatory EOBR directive would not follow drivers who switched companies.

Hill estimated that it could take 18 to 24 months for such a regulation to be instituted. Therefore, any mandatory EOBR installations would be accomplished 3-½ years from now at the earliest.

“The proposal would require EOBRs to record basic information including: identity of the driver, duty status, date, time and location of the commercial vehicle, and distance traveled,” Hill said. “It would also add a new requirement to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology or other location tracking systems to automatically identify the location of the vehicle, which further reduces the likelihood of falsification of HOS information. On-board HOS recording devices that are installed in commercial vehicles manufactured on or after two years from the effective date of a final rule would have to meet these new technical requirements, but EOBRs voluntarily installed before that time would be allowed to continue for the life of the vehicle.”

FMCSA is using incentives to encourage voluntary installation of EOBRs, including revising the agency’s compliance review procedures to permit examination of a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status and providing partial relief from HOS supporting documents requirements if certain conditions are satisfied. He said he welcomed comments from stakeholders and the public on additional incentives, as well as any other facet of the proposal. “We need to hear from the public on this issue,” he said, adding, “We’re looking at ways to reward carriers for voluntary installation.”

In a prepared statement, ATA president & CEO Bill Graves said: “We support this incentive-based approach to the use of electronic on-board recorders. Technology can play a significant role in enhancing road safety and help to ensure the reliability of commercial vehicle operation.”

Linking EOBR cost to safety may be tough. The annualized cost of purchasing, installing and operating an EOBR over a 10-year period is $534 to $989, according to FMCSA documents although many carriers contend the cost is higher. For example, Werner Enterprises has used paperless logs under a pilot program since July 1998. In the company’s public comments in November 2004 it stated: “Werner has no absolute, irrefutable evidence to prove that the use of its paperless logging system and therefore its EOBRs have resulted in fewer accidents on the highway.”

This does not mean that paperless logs do not have safety benefits, only that the company cannot verify it, officials added. One thing they were sure of, however, was that their drivers’ failure to comply with HOS regulations was 1.2%, well below the national average of 6.8%.

For the full proposal click: http://dmses.dot.gov/docimages/pdf99/435424_web.pdf

Public comments will be accepted until April 18, 2007.

To comment on this article, write to Terrence Nguyen at [email protected]

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