Limited mandate

| February 01, 2007

Federal regulations proposed Jan. 11 would require truck and bus companies with a history of serious hours-of-service violations to install electronic onboard recorders in all their commercial vehicles for a minimum of two years.

If the rule is adopted, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that within the first two years of its enforcement, approximately 930 carriers with 17,500 drivers will be required to use the recorders.

The proposed rule also would encourage industrywide use of recorders by providing incentives for voluntary use, said FMCSA chief John Hill, who made the announcement in Washington, D.C.

“I’m pleased to say that we have a proposed rule,” said Hill, “that outlines the use of electronic onboard recorders by targeting the worst offenders, encouraging safe companies to improve further by using this technology and setting realistic, performance-based solutions.” Hill said.

The proposal would require the devices to record basic information needed to track a driver’s duty status, including identity of the driver, date, time and location of the vehicle, and distance traveled. It also would add a new requirement: that Global Positioning System technology or other location tracking systems be used to automatically identify the location of the vehicle, further reducing the likelihood of successfully faked hours-of-service information.

The effective date of a final rule would start a two-year clock after which newly installed recorders would have to meet these new technical requirements. Recorders voluntarily installed before that time, however, would be allowed to continue in operation for the life of the vehicle, even if they didn’t meet the new requirements.

To expand use of the devices among the more than 650,000 motor carriers in the United States, the incentives for voluntary installation include:

  • Examining a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status as part of company compliance reviews.

  • Partially waiving requirements for hours-of-service supporting documents among carriers with voluntarily installed recorders.

The agency also welcomes suggestions from the public for additional incentives.

Comments on the proposed rule can be made until April 18 by visiting the DOT website, Docket Number FMCSA-2004-18940.
- Max Heine and Todd Dills

Preliminary Figures Reveal Truck Fatalities Down
Preliminary figures indicate large truck fatalities decreased in 2005 from the previous year, but were up from 2003, according to a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Progress Report.

All the 2005 figures in the safety outcomes category were preliminary. Large truck fatalities were 5,036 in 2003, 5,235 in 2004 and 5,212 in 2005. The large truck fatality rate per 100 million truck vehicle miles was 2.31 in 2003, 2.37 in 2004 and 2.34 in 2005.

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