FMCSA says electronic signatures are OK

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued regulatory guidance that establishes parity between paper and electronic records and signatures, expanding interested parties’ ability to use electronic methods. FMCSA said this guidance is intended to provide the motor carrier industry, motor carrier enforcement officials and other interested parties with uniform information regarding FMCSA’s acceptance of electronic signature on documents required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

FMCSA said it has received a number of requests from motor carriers and other interested parties asking permission to use electronic signatures in lieu of handwritten signatures on paper. The agency said that any electronic document or signature is considered the legal equivalent of a paper document or signature if it is the functional equivalent with respect to integrity, accuracy and accessibility, and that anyone may use electronic methods so long as the electronic documents or signatures accurately reflect the information in the record and remain accessible in a form that can be viewed and/or reproduced accurately according to agency rules. FMCSA said electronic documents will not be considered the legal equivalent of traditional paper documents if they are not capable of being retained and reproduced accurately for reference by any individual or entity entitled to access by law for the period of time required by the agency’s recordkeeping requirements.

FMCSA said the guidance applies to documents required by its regulations to be generated and maintained or exchanged by private parties, regardless of whether the agency subsequently requires them to be produced or displayed at the request of an FMCSA official or other parties entitled to access. The guidance does not apply to documents that individuals or entities are required to file directly with the agency because it already has established electronic filing methods for certain documents.