Industry news

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

The proposed rule also would encourage industrywide use of recorders – commonly referred to by drivers as “black boxes” – by providing incentives for voluntary use, said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief John Hill.

The American Trucking Associations applauded the proposal, while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it is “long on Big Brother and short on the real issue.”

The rule also would mandate that recorders’ performance standards be updated to record hours-of-service data and location-tracking information such as Global Positioning System data. Current performance standards for the recorders, already in use by some carriers, date to 1988 – long before GPS’ widespread use.

The proposed rule requires the use of recorders among carriers who’ve demonstrated a 10 percent or greater violation rate for hours regulations in two compliance reviews within a two-year period. The systems would track drivers’ duty status, identity, date, time and location.

“We estimated that about 930 carriers with 17,500 drivers would fall under this requirement” if the rule were in effect today, Hill said.

Data from the more than 3 million yearly roadside inspections will feed into the compliance review system, Hill said.

OOIDA says the proposal “is a misdirected attempt to deal with the root causes of hours-of-service violations.” Because recorders would not capture “the 30 to 40 or more hours drivers spend each week on loading and unloading docks,” OOIDA says, “it is astounding that FMCSA would consider economic incentives to encourage motor carriers to buy this technology while providing zero incentive or support to professional drivers squeezed in the economic/regulatory vise.”

Those carrier incentives for voluntary use of recorders, as outlined by Hill, are: a revision of the agency’s compliance review procedures and partial, unspecified relief from the hours of service supporting documents requirement if certain conditions are met.

Another incentive is contained in how the new electronic standards would be mandated. 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. Fleets that voluntarily installed recorders before then, however, would be allowed to continue using those devices for the life of the truck.

“We support this incentive-based approach to the use of electronic on-board recorders,” said Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations.

Comments from the public on the proposed rule are invited through April 18. To comment, visit this site, and reference Docket Number FMCSA-2004-18940.

“If there’s any vehicle that needs on-board recorders, it’s cars.”
– Leon Cousin, New York City, company
driver for Mid-Eastern Transport

“That’s not going to work. You can always beat electronics.”
– Wayne Hufford, Apopka, Fla., company driver for FDC

“I don’t see why it needs to be on a truck. They do this with no input from the drivers.”
– William Rich, Rocky Mount, N.C., company driver for Wilson Trucking

With the proposal’s GPS requirement, “If somebody gets hurt, you can track them and find where they are.”
– David Bagley, Resaca, Ga., owner-operator with French Trucking

Randall-Reilly Publishing Co. has purchased Kona Communications, adding Truck Parts and Service and Successful Dealer magazines to Randall-Reilly’s trucking publications. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kona is a Deerfield, Ill.-based, 37-year-old, privately held publisher with properties in truck distribution and the aftermarket. Kona’s founder, President and CEO Jim Moss, will remain in an advisory role throughout the transition.

“This acquisition furthers our goal of offering trucking industry suppliers a property to meet each of their marketing needs,” says Mike Reilly, Randall-Reilly president and CEO. Randall-Reilly’s other trucking holdings include Overdrive, Commercial Carrier Journal, Truckers News, Transportista (formerly Truckers News en Espa