EOBR Rule Aims to Keep Truckers Honest

More than half of the commercial vehicle drivers who responded to United Safety Alliance, Inc.'s online survey admitted to deliberately violating federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. Those regulations aim to keep highways safe by limiting driving time so commercial vehicle drivers get enough rest.

Currently, HOS compliance is monitored through paper logs and supporting documentation such as toll receipts. However, paper logs allow for falsification. For that reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking to shift to an automated means of monitoring compliance.

On January 31, 2011, the FMCSA published its electronic onboard record (EOBR) rule that will require certain motor carriers to install EOBRs to track drivers' HOS.

While many carriers already use EOBRs, the current law under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act (HMTAA) still requires those carriers to maintain Records of Duty Status (RODS) documents to verify a drivers' time behind the wheel. Under the proposed rule, use of an EOBR would reduce the number of required RODS to substantiate driving time.

The FMCSA estimates that approximately 500,000 motor carrier companies will be impacted by the new rule. The annual cost of the EOBR regulation to the transportation industry is estimated to be around $2 billion. However, it is believed the savings from the reduction in paperwork will exceed the costs.

To give it teeth, violations of the EOBR rule would result in fines up to $11,000 per incident and affect the carrier's safety rating and authority to operate.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "We cannot protect our roadways when commercial truck and bus companies exceed Hours-of-Service rules. This proposal would make our roads safer by ensuring that carriers traveling across state lines are using EOBRs to track the hours their drivers spend behind the wheel."

In addition to generally improving road safety, the EOBR regulations will hopefully prevent truck accidents involving other motor vehicles which can be some of the most serious because of the size and weight of tractor-trailers.

The FMCSA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until April 4, 2011. Comments can be made online at www.regulations.gov, docket number FMCSA-2010-0167.