SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA targets bad actors with black box mandate

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 4/2/2010

Friday, April 2, 2010 – Trucking companies that have a 10 percent or greater violation rate of the hours-of-service regulations will be saddled with electronic on-board recorders, courtesy of a new reg handed down by FMCSA.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration electronic on-board recorder rule will publish in the Federal Register on Monday, April 5. The regulation will go into effect June 4 with full compliance mandated by June 4, 2012.

The final rule states that motor carriers with a violation rate equal to or greater than 10 percent of the records reviewed during one compliance review will be ordered to implement the use of approved EOBRs. Once a motor carrier receives notice, hazmat haulers have 45 days to install the devices and all other motor carriers have 60 days.

Motor carriers will have to keep the devices installed for two years.

“The bottom line is, if you want to avoid the EOBR mandate, keep your nose clean,” said Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs. “It’s going to mean that you need to take care of the details and abide by the hours of service. It’s that simple.”

If a motor carrier receives a directive, the devices will have to be installed on all trucks – even on owner-operator trucks leased to the motor carrier, even if the owner-operator is running under his or her own authority.

If a company chooses to ignore the edict to install the devices, the motor carrier would no longer be allowed to operate in interstate commerce and could have its authority revoked by FMCSA.

Initially, FMCSA officials proposed that only motor carriers with a 10 percent or greater violation rate in two compliance reviews would be targeted. However, the final rule threw a wider net and will target companies with the 10 percent violation rate in only one compliance review.

The agency noted in the final rule that motor carriers with a 10 percent or greater violation rate of the hours-of-service regs in one compliance review have a 40 percent higher crash rate than the general motor carrier population. Motor carriers showing the same level of non-compliance in two compliance reviews were found to have a 90 percent higher crash rate.

The final rule also outlines performance criteria for the actual EOBR devices. The devices will have to record information such as driver name; date and time; location; distance traveled; and shipping document numbers or name of shipper and commodity.

The devices must automatically record driving time. If the truck is being used as a personal conveyance, the driver will have to input a note to that effect before the truck even moves.

In tracking the truck’s movement, if the truck is stationary for five or more minutes, the EOBR must default to on-duty not driving and the driver “must enter the proper duty status.” When the truck is in motion, the devices will have to record the time and location of the truck at least once every 60 minutes.

The agency also took on the issue of tampering and requires that the EOBR records not be altered by the driver, motor carrier or third party. In the event that a record needs alteration, the EOBRs are required to keep the original records as well as the modified records. Drivers will be allowed to make “annotations” to the records in the event of a special circumstance.

As promised, the agency also allowed for voluntary use of EOBRs for motor carriers. To sweeten the pot, the agency will only require those motor carriers to maintain supporting documents that provide the ability to verify on-duty not driving and off-duty statuses.

Companies who have the EOBR use mandated will not be relieved from any of the record-keeping requirements.

The agency also indicated that it would initiate another EOBR rulemaking, this time considering a mandate for passenger carriers, hazmat transporters and new motor carriers seeking authority. The agency did not elaborate when that rulemaking would commence.

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