White House clears EOBR rule

 A final rule mandating electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for carriers that have a history of serious non-compliance with hours-of-service rules could be just days away now that the White House Office of Management and Budget has cleared the measure.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected soon to publish the rule in the Federal Register. Details of the final rule won’t be public until FMCSA announces it. According to OMB’s website, the White House insisted on at least some changes to the rule that was submitted by the Department of Transportation.

As proposed in January 2007, the regulation also would incorporate new performance standards for EOBRs installed in commercial motor vehicles manufactured two years after the rule’s effective date. On-board HOS recording devices meeting FMCSA´s current requirements and voluntarily installed in vehicles manufactured before that date could continue to be used for the remainder of the service life of those vehicles. FMCSA had proposed to encourage industry-wide use of EOBRs by providing certain relief from audit and recordkeeping practices.

FMCSA completed work on the rule during the Bush administration, but the White House failed to clear it before President Obama was inaugurated. A government-wide review of pending rulemakings delayed the regulation, but DOT sent a final rule to the White House in December.

The EOBR issue isn’t settled once FMCSA publishes this rule, however. The agency has said it will consider further expanding the number of motor carriers required to install EOBRs as part of a rulemaking that also will address supporting documents for HOS compliance. FMCSA says it will consider reducing or eliminating paperwork burdens associated with supporting documents in favor of expanded EOBR use.

According to a monthly DOT report, FMCSA now plans to complete work on the EOBR/supporting documents proposal in July with publication in December. Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations has sued FMCSA to move forward with a supporting documents rule. One of the major concerns is the agency’s decision in December 2008 to begin using satellite positioning data routinely in audits of driver logs. ATA argues that motor carrier obligations for maintaining supporting documents should be clear and established by regulation.

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Regulatory action on EOBRs comes as safety advocates and many in Congress are calling on mandatory EOBRs industry-wide. For example, Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, proposed a highway authorization bill last year that would mandate use of EOBRs in all commercial motor vehicles subject to HOS rules.

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