Electronic onboard recorders could become a reality for carriers that are the worst offenders of the hours-of-service rule.
Rather than limiting the productivity of the trucking industry as some fear, eventual widespread adoption of electronic onboard recorders actually could improve the management of trucking companies, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said Jan. 22.
“I honestly believe you are going to find us being more productive and better able to manage our resources,” Graves said in a speech to the Heavy Duty Dialogue, an annual meeting of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association.
Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration isn’t proposing a broad mandate. Rather, it seeks to target “bad actors” in the industry, an approach ATA endorses.
Although FMCSA is proposing two incentives to encourage motor carriers to install electronic onboard recorders, the agency has asked for additional perks it could offer that could improve productivity without reducing safety or impairing driver health.
For example, FMCSA is asking for evidence that could support granting more scheduling flexibility to the 14-hour rule or use of the sleeper berth to satisfy off-duty minimums.
Motor carriers frequently have suggested that tax incentives and the shielding of recorder data from crash litigation would be desirable incentives. In both cases, however, federal legislation would be required, so those incentives are beyond the scope of a rulemaking absent further action by Congress.
The two incentives FMCSA is proposing for voluntary recorders are: use of a random sampling of hours-of-service records for the purpose of establishing the carrier’s safety fitness rating; and relief from supporting documents requirements except for those documents needed to verify on-duty not-driving activities and off-duty status.
The FMCSA also proposes that recorders installed before its new electronic standards go into effect won’t have to be retrofitted to meet those standards – which itself could be viewed as an incentive to voluntarily install recorders sooner rather than later.
Comments from the public on the proposed rule are invited through April 18. To comment, visit the DOT website, http://dms.dot.gov, and reference Docket Number FMCSA-2004-18940.
- Avery Vise
Breaking Down FMCSA’s EOBR Analysis
A regulatory impact analysis commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that the agency’s recent proposal to mandate electronic onboard recorders for carriers with serious compliance problems produces a positive net benefit only if the carriers use a low-cost option, such as a cell phone-based system.
Even then, the annual net benefit would be a mere $610,000 overall, or $41 per power unit involved, according to the independent analysis conducted by ICF Consulting.