By Jami Jones
The stage is set for a summer of showdowns over electronic on-board recorders.
Currently, a "notice of proposed rulemaking" on the use of electronic on-board recorders - or EOBRs - is close to becoming a reality.
But, that's not the only front the war over EOBRs in trucking could be fought on this summer.
A regulation brewing?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration closed its "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" on the use of EOBRs in trucking in November 2004. The agency had requested comments on potential amendments to its regulations concerning the use of on-board recording devices to document compliance with the HOS regs.
The comment period drew more than 300 comments on the hotly contested issue - including comments from many safety advocate groups and trucking industry groups.
The next step in the process is a "notice of proposed rulemaking." Before it's posted on the Federal Register with a request for comments, the proposal must be approved by the Secretary of Transportation and then submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for approval.
That process is well underway. The notice is snaking its way through the approval process and FMCSA officials expect to see the notice published on the Federal Register in late August, according to the Web site of the Assistant General Counsel for Regulation and Enforcement.
A courtroom standoff?
When the HOS regs were announced in August 2005, it didn't take long for the criticism to start.
Part of the process for getting a regulation tossed by the courts is to first petition FMCSA for a reconsideration of the rule. Once the reconsideration is denied, the challenge can be filed in the courts.
The hours-of-service regs were hotly contested on many fronts, including by OOIDA. A number of petitions for reconsideration were filed and eventually rejected by FMCSA, resulting in a couple of significant lawsuits.
One of those suits is OOIDA's court challenge pertaining to the split sleeper-berth provision. A second court challenge of note is one filed by Public Citizen, a safety advocacy group. Among that group's many contentions is that EOBRs should be mandated in the HOS regs.
Those court challenges are now before the U.S. Circuit Court in Washington, DC.
Paul Cullen Sr., OOIDA's general counsel, told "Land Line Now" in late 2005 the Association is prepared to play both "offense and defense" in the court challenges regarding HOS.
OOIDA is ready to stand behind the new regs because they don't include EOBRs. And Cullen said OOIDA will be "vigilant" in opposing efforts by other groups to twist FMCSA's arm and get EOBRs included in the current hours-of-service regs.
No hearings to debate the actual points of Public Citizen's court challenge had been set at press time.
North of the border, too?
Canadian Trucking Alliance Chairman Claude Robert said he wants to make paper logbooks a thing of the past. But his plan includes the use of EOBRs, which is something CTA has had on its radar screen for some time.
Robert, who will serve a two-year term as CTA chairman, replaced the late John Cyopeck. Robert is CEO of a Quebec trucking company, and he is known for his outspokenness.
In his first press release as chairman, Robert outlined his policies, which include mandatory EOBRs, anti-idling measures, industry compliance within the hours-of-service rules and mandatory speed limiters in Canada.
At this point, EOBRs are just on the wish list of the new CTA chairman and have not progressed into official regulatory channels.
What about personal vehicles?
The "black box" debate isn't restricted to the trucking industry.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at an event data recorder for personal vehicles.
A proposed rulemaking has been published to explore what role NHTSA should take in implementing event data recorders - or EDRs - in motor vehicles. There is currently a rulemaking under review by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. That proposed rule would establish requirements for EDRs in new vehicles if an EDR is in the vehicle.
The requirement would include a minimum set of data to be collected and enhanced survivability in crashes.
A final rule is expected to be published in June.
Staff Writer David Tanner contributed to this article.