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Breaking news: FMCSA releases proposed ELD rule

The FMCSA says the proposed ELD rule will improve compliance with HOS rules.

The Trucker Staff

3/13/2014

WASHINGTON — The long-awaited, much discussed proposal to require interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use electronic logging devices in their vehicle was released Thursday morning.

In releasing the proposal, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said the proposed rule would improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work. 

The FMCSA said the proposed rulemaking would significantly reduce the paperwork burden associated with Hours of Service recordkeeping for interstate truck and bus drivers — the largest in the federal government following tax-related filings — and improve the quality of logbook data.

“Today's proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork — exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a prepared statement. “By leveraging innovative technology with Electronic Logging Devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors.”

The proposed rule will ultimately reduce HOS violations by making it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their time on logbooks and avoid detection by FMCSA and law enforcement personnel, FMCSA said, adding that analysis shows it will also help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million.

“By implementing electronic logging devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel,” FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said. “With broad support from safety advocates, carriers and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries.”

The Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which was sent to the Federal Register to publish on March 12, supersedes a prior 2011 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to electronic on-board recorders.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which filed a lawsuit forcing FMCSA to re-visit and update its proposal with safeguards to prevent driver harassment, was swift to respond.

“Congress and the courts have set the standard of requirements high for FMCSA,” OOIDA stated.

“The agency must address the serious safety issue of how EOBRs are used to harass and coerce truck drivers into continuing to drive regardless of driving conditions, such as bad weather, congested traffic or simply if the driver is too tired to drive. Plus, there is no known device that is capable of automatically recording a driver’s duty status throughout a work day, not just when they are driving, and this is also a requirement from Congress. 

“We will examine the proposal in detail to see how the agency has attempted to meet these requirements, especially considering that an important study on the harassment issue is still listed as ‘ongoing’ on the FMCSA website. 

“Further, the issue of cost to truckers and what specific technical requirements are called for, especially when FMCSA has yet to show any direct safety benefit between ELD/EOBR use and reduced crashes, will be a critical focus of our review of the proposal.  This is the first stage in the regulatory process for the agency’s latest attempt to craft a rule on this topic, and OOIDA and small business truckers will certainly be weighing in and providing comments.”

The proposed rule includes provisions to:

• Respect driver privacy by ensuring that ELD records continue to reside with the motor carriers and drivers. Electronic logs will continue to only be made available to FMCSA personnel or law enforcement during roadside inspections, compliance reviews and post-crash investigations.

• Protect drivers from harassment through an explicit prohibition on harassment by a motor carrier owner towards a driver using information from an ELD.  It will also establish a procedure for filing a harassment complaint and creates a maximum civil penalty of up to $11,000 for a motor carrier that engages in harassment of a driver that leads to an HOS violation or the driver operating a vehicle when they are so fatigued or ill it compromises safety. The proposal will also ensure that drivers continue to have access to their own records and require ELDs to include a mute function to protect against disruptions during sleeper berth periods.

• Increase efficiency for law enforcement personnel and inspectors who review driver logbooks by making it more difficult for a driver to cheat when submitting their records of duty status and ensuring the electronic logs can be displayed and reviewed electronically, or printed, with potential violations flagged. 

In developing the updated proposal, the FMCSA said it relied on input from its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, feedback from two public listening sessions and comments filed during an extended period following the 2011 proposed rule. The proposal also incorporates the mandates included in the most recent transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, and other statutes.

Impaired driving, including fatigue, was listed as a factor in more than 12 percent of the 129,120 total crashes that involved large trucks or buses in 2012.

To read the SNPRM, click here.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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