FMCSA wants EOBRs for interstate carriers
Plan would apply to all carriers that use logbooks
All interstate commercial truck and bus carriers that now use records of duty status (RODS) to track compliance with hours-of-service regulations would have to use electronic onboard recorders under a proposed regulation issued Jan. 31 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The proposal would relieve carriers of the current requirement to retain certain HOS documents, such as delivery and toll receipts, that now are used to verify the number of hours the vehicle is in operation. About 500,000 carriers would be affected by the proposed rule, FMCSA said.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered FMCSA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on HOS supporting documents by yearend. In December, the court gave the agency another month – until Jan. 31 – to comply. The court order stemmed from a lawsuit the American Trucking Associations filed more than a year ago to compel FMCSA to move forward with a regulation as mandated by Congress in the mid-1990s.
By the time ATA filed its lawsuit, FMCSA already had announced that it was planning to link new regulations on supporting documents to an expansion of the EOBR mandate. In April 2010, FMCSA issued a final rule requiring carriers that have a history of serious log violations to install EOBRs. That rule takes effect in June 2012.
“We cannot protect our roadways when commercial truck and bus companies exceed hours-of-service rules,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “This proposal would make our roads safer by ensuring that carriers traveling across state lines are using EOBRs to track the hours their drivers spend behind the wheel.”
Although ATA did not issue a formal statement on FMCSA’s proposal, ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves did address it in a speech last month to the members of the Technology and Maintenance Council, which was meeting in Tampa, Fla. Graves said carriers should accept the inevitability of an EOBR mandate and begin embracing the technology. Citing studies that show positive correlations between companies that log driver hours electronically and the overall safety of those companies, Graves said it is difficult for ATA to oppose such a mandate.
“We are on that glide path today where every vehicle very soon will be required to use electronic logging,” said Graves. “As much as we still have individuals in our industry unwilling to embrace electronic logging, it is simply going to happen.”
In the NPRM, interstate carriers that currently use RODS logbooks to document drivers’ HOS would be required to use EOBRs. Short-haul interstate carriers that use timecards to document HOS would not be required to use them. Carriers that violate this EOBR requirement would face civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. Noncompliance also would negatively impact a carrier’s safety fitness rating and Department of Transportation operating authority.
“This proposal is an important step in our efforts to raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “We believe broader use of EOBRs would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their HOS compliance.”
Last year, U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation that would have required all interstate carriers to use EOBRs. The measure won the support of a new coalition, The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, which was formed by J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation, Maverick USA, Schneider National and U.S. Xpress. The bill died at the end of the 111th Congress.
Under a preliminary regulatory analysis released by FMCSA, the total costs of EOBRs – the cost of the devices themselves plus the productivity loss due to stricter compliance with hours-of-service regulations – would barely exceed the paperwork savings the agency estimates from no longer having to maintain paper logs and supporting documents. Excluding the productivity losses, FMCSA projects that the paperwork savings would exceed the cost of EOBRs themselves by $379 million industrywide. Almost all the net benefits of the rule flow from the anticipated safety benefits.
The proposal, supporting documents and comments are available at www.regulations.gov by searching FMCSA-2010-0167. Also, DOT is working with Cornell University on gathering public comment as part of the department’s e-Rulemaking Initiative. For more information, go to www.regulationroom.org.
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