SPECIAL REPORT: EOBR proposal clears White House; few details emerge

| 12/27/2006

Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006 - If you're wondering if the feds are toying with the idea of mandating the so-called "black boxes" for the trucking industry, you may very well get an answer to that question before too much longer.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has approved a "notice of proposed rulemaking" that will propose a potential new regulation governing electronic on-board recording devices for the trucking industry.

As much as everyone would like a peek under the hood of the proposed regulation, it has not yet been unveiled - in fact, it was only approved by the White House office Dec. 21 - and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hasn't exactly been sticking hard and fast to its plan for revealing regulations, proposed or final.

However, a brief explanation about the proposed reg governing the on-board devices - called EOBRs within the industry - doesn't do much to satisfy the industry's collective curiosity.

The proposed rulemaking may amend the regs by adding performance standards for the EOBRs, which are intended to document compliance with the hours-of-service regulations, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's synopsis of the proposed reg.

But, if you want to know if FMCSA officials are toying with making EOBRs voluntary, mandatory for some carriers or mandatory for everyone - your guess is as good as any.

The explanation released by FMCSA states: "The (proposed) rulemaking would consider the potential benefits and costs of requiring motor carriers to install and use EOBRs and evaluate alternative approaches including: 1) Mandating such practice industry-wide, 2) limiting the requirement to motor carriers with certain characteristics, and 3) allowing EOBR use to remain voluntary."

The next step for this proposed regulation is simply a game of wait and see - waiting to see what the agency proposes on the Federal Register, and getting ready to comment once the docket is open. That could be anywhere from a few days to several weeks away.

- By Jami Jones, senior editor