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FMCSA moves forward on reg mandating ‘black boxes’

By Jami Jones and David Tanner
Land Line staff


Bad actors in the trucking industry are one step closer to being saddled with electronic on-board recorders.

On Dec. 17, 2009, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sent its electronic on-board recorder final rule to the White House for approval.

According to an abstract about the final rule, motor carriers that have demonstrated a history of serious noncompliance with the hours-of-service regs would be subject to mandatory installation of EOBRs.

The motor carrier would then be required to install EOBRs in all of its CMVs regardless of their date of manufacture and would have to use the devices for HOS recordkeeping for a period of two years. The only way these companies wouldn’t have to install the EOBRs is if the carrier already had equipped its trucks with automatic on-board recording devices meeting the agency’s current requirements and could demonstrate to FMCSA that its drivers understand how to use the devices.

The agency is apparently going to continue to push for voluntary use of the EOBRs. FMCSA would encourage industry-wide use of EOBRs by providing incentives to carriers. Those incentives, according to the abstract, include revising the agency’s compliance review procedures to permit examination of a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status and providing partial relief from HOS supporting documents requirements if certain conditions are satisfied.

In recent history, the approval process typically takes between 60 and 90 days. That means the EOBR rule could be made official as early as sometime in February.

The submission of the EOBR rule to the White House corresponded with Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, withdrawing a proposed amendment to a Senate bill that would have required EOBRs on all commercial vehicles. OOIDA leaders say truckers who lit up the phones deserve credit for shaping that outcome.

Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, had hoped to attach his proposal to Senate Bill 554, the Motor Coach Enhanced Safety Act. He officially withdrew the amendment during a markup of the legislation.

“Senator Lautenberg had filed the amendment earlier in the week and referenced it during the markup, but he withdrew it saying he wanted to focus on comprehensive safety measures down the road,” Rod Nofziger, OOIDA director of government affairs, told Land Line.

“He did make a statement saying that he wants to continue on with his efforts to extend EOBRs to trucks as well as buses. He did also reference that the National Transportation Safety Board has an EOBR mandate on its most-wanted list as well.”

OOIDA was quick to react after learning about Lautenberg’s intentions and it paid off, Nofziger said.

“We had heard from the folks that we deal with on the committee that they were getting quite a few calls from truckers,” Nofziger said. “Truckers’ efforts certainly caught the attention of members of the committee and made a difference.” LL