For the Record
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule that formally rescinds its April 2010 final rule concerning electronic onboard recorders for hours-of-service compliance. FMCSA’s action responds to a court decision that vacated the rule that would have mandated EOBRs on all trucks used by certain noncompliant carriers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in August 2011 vacated the agency’s EOBR rule following a challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA had argued that the final rule had not met federal regulations stipulating FMCSA ensure the devices not be used to harass vehicle operators.
An EOBR mandate that would cover all carriers, though, is included in the Senate’s version of a multiyear highway bill that, at press time, was in a House-Senate conference committee. It’s not known if the committee’s compromise version of the two bills will include the mandate or not.
Despite the appeals court decision, FMCSA on Feb. 10 announced its intent to move forward with rulemaking regarding EOBRs and hours of service. The agency also announced via the Federal Register steps to obtain comprehensive data to support its rulemaking, including:
• Listening sessions on the issue of driver harassment (held in March and April).
• Tasking the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to assist in developing material to support the rulemaking, including technical specifications for EOBRs and their potential to be used to harass drivers.
• Conducting research by surveying drivers, carriers and vendors regarding harassment issues.
The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee on Feb. 8 finalized a report on mitigating the use of EOBRs to harass drivers that provides suggestions to FMCSA. The document contained information the agency should explore in any rulemaking on EOBRs for hours of service compliance.
Harassment issues relative to electronic logs cover driver relationships with law enforcement personnel and carriers, tilting heavily toward the latter and favoring drivers’ positions in certain instances.