FMCSA amends performance standards in EOBR rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has amended several of the performance standards in the “Electronic Onboard Recorders for Hours of Service Compliance” final rule, which the agency issued on April 5.

The changes to the final rule were made after FMCSA received petitions for reconsideration from Qualcomm, Xata Corp. and a group of industry stakeholders, including the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council EOBR Task Force.

Qualcomm and the other stakeholders requested that FMCSA reconsider the final rule’s requirements for (1) the temperature range in which EOBRs must be able to operate, and (2) the connector type specified for the USB interface. Xata further requested that FMCSA (1) clarify certain reportable events in the diagnostic table, and (2) consider offering an additional alternative for the data transfer between an EOBR and a roadside safety official’s portable computer.

Temperature range

In the April final rule, FMCSA adopted the EOBR operating temperature range to -40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) based on an SAE standard for vehicle electronics. Qualcomm and other stakeholders stated that the temperature operating range is beyond the range of the leading commercially-available systems today.

Qualcomm noted that off-the-shelf telematics and onboard recorder systems are typically designed for -20 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and that it would require significant added technical features and costs in such devices to meet the requirements of the new regulation.

In response, FMCSA stated that it does not intend to require an EOBR to be so rugged that it is operable at extreme temperatures that realistically will not be seen in a truck’s normal operating environment. The agency deleted the requirement for a specific operating temperature range from its final rule.

USB connector
The final rule originally required (1) a single USB compliant interface featuring a Type B connector, and (2) that the USB interface must (a) comply with USB V1.1 and V2.0 USB signaling standards, and (b) implement the Mass Storage class (08h) for software driverless operation.

All petitioners requested that FMCSA reconsider the requirement for a Type B connector. They noted that although many EOBRs and related devices on the market support USB, these devices generally use a Type A connector. Very few, if any, EOBRs in the marketplace today would meet the final rule’s requirement, they said, adding that there would be significant added costs to retrofit current units or to replace them with new devices that are Type B connector-compliant.

FMCSA decided to delete the requirement for a Type B connector and replace it with a requirement for a Type A connector.

Fault codes

Xata requested that FMCSA more clearly define the frequency, duration and availability for capture of five EOBR Diagnostic Event Codes that the agency listed in its final EOBR rule. Those codes are Low Voltage (LOWVLT), Battery Low (BATLOW), Communications Error (COMERR), Display Error (DYPERR) and Keyboard Error (KEYERR).

The first two of these diagnostic events could occur when a vehicle is being started during cold weather, but would be resolved when the vehicle is warmed up. The third diagnostic events could occur when a CMV is operating in areas with limited cellular coverage.

FMCSA agreed with Xata that there is a need to clarify thresholds and frequencies for the diagnostic events that would trigger fault codes for these various conditions. The agency determined that it would be more appropriate to consider the fault-code reporting thresholds during the implementation period prior to the June 4, 2012 compliance date of the final rule.

Prior to the compliance date, the agency will make a determination if it is necessary to have a separate rulemaking or other regulatory action to address this matter.

Additional data transfer options

Xata also recommended that FMCSA consider adding an additional option for EOBR data transfer that would use the Internet or Internet-enabled technology. Xata said this method would provide a longer-term solution than the wired and wireless methods specified in the final rule. This requested option would not take the place of the data transfer requirements specified in the April final rule, but it could provide an alternative method.

In response, FMSCA said it is aware that some providers of EOBRs and support services currently use Internet (Web)-based storage and archiving of hours-of-service records. Unlike the fault-codes question, the resolution of this matter relates to the availability of communications hardware and software for roadside safety officials, rather than for the EOBR itself.

The agency will make a determination if it is necessary to have a separate rulemaking or other regulatory action to address this matter prior to the June 4, 2012 compliance date of the final rule.