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NTSB seeks tighter controls on paper logs pending EOBRs

In response to a July 2004 multiple-vehicle rear-end collision in a construction zone, the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday, Dec. 17, recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require interstate carriers to use electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to monitor compliance with hours-of-service regulations and to take measures in the interim to prevent log tampering and submission of false logs.

Specifically, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker recommended that FMCSA require motor carriers to create and maintain audit control systems that include, at a minimum, the retention of all original and corrected paper logs and the use of bound and sequentially numbered logs.

NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash on Interstate 94 near Chelsea, Mich., was a truck driver’s failure to stop upon encountering traffic congestion in a temporary traffic control zone – likely due to a reduced state of alertness associated with failure to obtain adequate rest. Using Global Positioning System data from the driver’s employer, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Equity Transportation Co., NTSB investigators concluded that the driver had been on duty continuously for 19.75 hours, driving almost 14 cumulative hours during that time.

Contributing to the accident were Equity Transportation Co.’s insufficient regard for, and oversight of, driver compliance with hours-of-service regulations and FMCSA’s failure to require tamperproof driver logs, Rosenker told FMCSA Administrator John Hill. Another contributor was the Michigan Department of Transportation’s failure to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis as part of a bridge rehabilitation project, Rosenker said.

Commenting on FMCSA’s current proposal to require EOBRs only on those carriers with a pattern of violations, Rosenker noted that Equity would not be considered a pattern violator under the plan since it has consistently received satisfactory ratings prior to and since the compliance review triggered by the July 2004 accident. “In light of deficiencies in the FMCSA motor carrier compliance review program, the Safety Board does not believe that the FMCSA has the resources or processes necessary to identify and discipline all carriers and drivers who are pattern violators of the hours-of-service regulations,” Rosenker told Hill. “Consequently, a program to impose EOBRs on pattern violators that relies on the current compliance review program to identify such carriers seems unlikely to be successful.”

Rosenker noted the financial and regulatory incentives that FMCSA is proposing to encourage motor carriers to install EOBRs voluntarily. “However, the Safety Board is unconvinced that these incentives are sufficient to override the financial motivation that pattern violators have for continuing to circumvent hours-of-service regulations and to not use EOBRs for tracking hours of service.”

For a copy of the NTSB recommendation letter to FMCSA, click here.

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