You can still comment on HOS supporting documents

| Friday, December 10, 2004

Drivers and companies alike have to hang on to receipts, expense vouchers, bills of lading – anything – that backs up their logbooks. But the government is seeking comments on a proposed rulemaking on the subject.

The deadline for submitting comments is Jan. 3, 2005.

The proposal contains little in the way of change from the current way of life. The purpose behind the proposal is to clarify that motor carriers have to verify the accuracy of drivers’ hours-of-service records and logbooks and that the obligation extends to owner-operators. The proposal, while not changing the types of accepted supporting documents, notes that FMCSA proposes to permit the use of electronic documents as a supplement to, and in some cases in lieu of, paper supporting documents.

The proposal is also intended to clarify definitions: supporting documents, employee and driver.

The legal basis for the rulemaking states “this proposal would close the loopholes that made it possible for some operators to obscure their violations of the HOS rules by failing to collect, retain or properly to index, documents that could be used to check the accuracy of driver’s (records-of-duty status).”

FMCSA goes so far as to assert there would be no additional cost to the industry for the implementation of the proposed rule if companies and drivers “were in full compliance with the current supporting documents regulation.”

Specifically the new rules require that written or electronic documents used to verify a specific trip include at least the driver’s name or the vehicle’s number, to ensure the document can be tied to a particular driver.

The definition of supporting documents is tackled in the proposal by FMCSA. A supporting document, according to the proposal, would cover any document generated or received by a carrier or driver during the normal course of business that could be used to verify a driver’s logbook.

“We are proposing and requesting comments on a long, but not exclusive, list of examples,” the FMCSA states in its proposal.

The FMCSA also wants a regulatory provision specifying how long a motor carrier must maintain HOS records – at least six months from the date of receipt. Companies will also have to use “self-compliance” systems to verify the accuracy of both employee and owner-operator logbooks.

Comments will be accepted until Jan. 3, 2005, on Docket No. FMCSA-1998-3706 at http://dms.dot.gov or by mailing them to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh St. SW, Nassif Building Room PL-401, Washington DC 20590.

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