The EOBR Rule
Logging a milestone
A new FMSCA Regulation requires some carriers to track drivers’ hours of service electronically rather than on paper logs.
It’s just the beginning.
By Avery Vise
Although truck drivers have been subject to federal regulation of their work hours for more than 70 years, it wasn’t until last month that the federal government declared that any group of motor carriers must use a device rather than paper logs to monitor those hours.
In a final rule published April 5, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided that serious violators of major hours-of-service (HOS) regulations must install electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) in all their trucks and use them to track compliance. Compared to FMCSA’s January 2007 proposal, the final rule on electronic driver logs strengthens the remedial mandate by having it apply to far more motor carriers. The rule also changes performance specs substantially and leaves incentives for voluntary adoption intact.
The rule takes effect on June 4, 2012, giving EOBR suppliers time to adjust to the new performance standards. Truck owners that want to use EOBRs or that are forced to do so won’t necessarily have to install new hardware, however; major fleet management systems offer electronic logs as an option, usually for a small additional monthly fee per unit. The new performance standards will be required for EOBRs installed in commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) manufactured on or after June 4, 2012, regardless of whether those EOBRs are installed voluntarily or subject to a remedial directive.
“We think it’s a good public policy approach,” says Dave Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for the American Trucking Associations. “It does capture more carriers, which is something we advocated.”
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which represents state and provincial motor carrier law enforcement agencies, sees the rule as “a step in the right direction,” even though it “still falls far short,” says Stephen Keppler, interim executive director. “We have been pretty vocal that we have been advocating a universal mandate for some time.” CVSA also has worries over the rule’s performance specifications and the law enforcement community’s readiness to handle them.
FMCSA also used the final rule to elaborate just a bit on its plans to require even more motor carriers to use electronic logging. The agency sees the major step it took last month as just the beginning of widespread log conversion from paper to electronics.
One strike, you’re out
In the final rule, FMCSA chose to mandate EOBRs on motor carriers that are shown in a single compliance review to be in serious noncompliance with any major HOS regulation. Carriers won’t have an opportunity to correct deficiencies in their compliance before facing an EOBR mandate.
Crash rates for targeted carriers are 40 percent higher than the general population.
Beginning in June 2012, FMCSA will require a carrier to install EOBRs in all of its vehicles if a safety audit finds that the carrier has a violation rate of 10 percent or greater for any major HOS regulation listed in a new Appendix C to part 385. (See “What draws an EOBR?” page 59.) Those carriers must use the devices for HOS recordkeeping for two years.
The final measure is significantly more stringent than the regulation proposed in January 2007 when the agency planned to mandate EOBRs based on a review of HOS records during each of two compliance reviews conducted within a two-year period. FMCSA estimates that nearly 5,700 interstate carriers will be required to use EOBRs. Carriers that would be subject to mandatory EOBRs if the rule were in place today have 40 percent higher crash rates than the general carrier population, FMCSA says.
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