FMCSA revamps supporting docs policy

Paper Stack E1275682821859The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided not to require any motor carriers to retain certain documents related to drivers’ hours of service. The agency also will relieve carriers that use electronic mobile communications and tracking technology of the burden of maintaining numerous other supporting documents in order to verify driver logs.

The new regulatory guidance and policy, which will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, will benefit those carriers who have faced additional scrutiny since December 2008 when the agency adopted a policy of treating the data from electronic mobile communications and tracking systems as supporting documents that could be demanded in a compliance review.

In 1997, FMCSA’s predecessor published a list of more than 30 types of supporting documents that carriers needed to retain in order to verify logs. In its new regulatory guidance, the agency said that certain documents in that list no longer are used regularly by enforcement staff and no longer will be required by any motor carriers, including:

  • Driver call-in records;
  • International Registration Plan receipts;
  • International Fuel Tax Agreement receipts;
  • Trip permits;
  • Cash advance receipts; and
  • Driver fax reports (cover sheets).

In general, FMCSA will continue to require other types of supporting documents that were listed in April 1997, but carriers using qualifying electronic mobile communications and tracking technology that capture time and/or position location information now will be relieved of the requirement to retain many of the remaining supporting documents. For vehicles equipped with such systems, carriers no longer will need to keep:

  • Gate record receipts;
  • Weigh/scale tickets;
  • Port of entry receipts;
  • Delivery receipts;
  • Toll receipts;
  • Agricultural inspection reports;
  • Over/short and damage reports;
  • Driver and vehicle examination reports;
  • Traffic citations;
  • Overweight/oversize reports and citations;
  • Carrier pros;
  • Credit card receipts;
  • Border crossing reports;
  • Customs declarations; and
  • Telephone billing statements.

In order to take advantage of this paperwork relief, however, motor carriers cannot challenge in HOS enforcement proceedings the accuracy of their own electronic mobile communications and tracking records. The new regulatory guidance spells out the specifications that electronic mobile communications and tracking systems must meet in order to qualify for the paperwork relief.

FMCSA’s new guidance and policy comes as the agency and the American Trucking Associations have been negotiating a settlement for several months of a lawsuit ATA filed in January regarding supporting documents. ATA’s suit, which was prompted in large measure by FMCSA’s December 2008 enforcement memorandum, seeks to compel the agency to issue a long-overdue regulation governing HOS supporting documents. The trucking group argued that without a regulation, carriers did not have clarity and certainty over what supporting documents were required.

In the regulatory guidance, the agency confirmed its plan to proceed with a regulation to establish requirements for HOS supporting documents. FMCSA plans to issue a proposed rule, which also would expand the mandate for electronic onboard recorders, by the end of this year and to adopt a final rule within two years.

A copy of the regulation guidance/policy change will be available on the FMCSA website at least until it is published in the Federal Register.