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NTSB steps up the pressure on FMCSA to mandate ‘black boxes’ for trucks

By Jami Jones
senior editor


Mandating electronic on-board recorders for the “bad actors” in the trucking industry isn’t enough, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The agency unveiled its annual “Most Wanted” list at the end of October, and it included mandating EOBRs for all trucks in the industry.

The EOBRs, commonly referred to as “black boxes,” are intended to keep track of how many hours a trucker drives in hopes of replacing paper logbooks.

This isn’t the first time NTSB has included the “black boxes” on its “Most Wanted” list. Agency officials included “event data recorders” on their list from 1997 until 2004. In 2004, the list was broken down into specific modes of transportations, and surprisingly the “black boxes” were no longer included on the list for the trucking industry.

Despite not being included on the “Most Wanted” list, NTSB officials continued to recommend the electronic devices and pushed FMCSA toward implementation – which started in January 2007.

In early 2007, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking on the use of EOBRs.

According to the proposed regulation, if FMCSA officials determine – based on HOS records reviewed during each of two compliance reviews conducted within a two-year period – that a motor carrier had a 10 percent or greater violation rate, the carrier would be mandated to use EOBRs for two years.

All of the trucks owned and leased to the motor carrier would be required to have EOBRs installed, according to the proposed reg.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the proposal is a misdirected attempt to deal with the root causes of hours-of-service violations.

“Congress directed the FMCSA to consider on-board recorders in trucks. However, lawmakers also directed the agency to address loading and unloading time. Until the FMCSA resolves this drivers’ safety dilemma and the hours-of-service scheme, technology as a solution will be little more than expensive eyewash,” said Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs.

In addition to mandating the use of EOBRs for motor carriers with patterns of noncompliance, the proposed regulation offers incentives to motor carriers that voluntarily use EOBRs.

NTSB is now openly criticizing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for recommending mandatory EOBRs only for trucking operations with a history of serious hours-of-service violations.

The NTSB Web site says the FMCSA has offered an “unacceptable response” on the issue.

The next step toward a regulation mandating at least some use of EOBRs in the trucking industry is expected in early 2009, according to the NTSB’s Web site. LL