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Proposed Rule Requires Electronic on Board Recorders in Trucks

Every year over 4000 people are killed and more than 100,000 are injured in vehicle accidents involving commercial trucks. Both the United States Department of Transportation and the National Safety Transportation Safety Board have often cited trucker driver fatigue as a significant factor that causes truck accidents. Truckers are limited in the amount of successive hours of service they can spend driving on the road. But many truckers misrepresent their hours of service on paper log books and push beyond those limits.

For years many safety advocates have urged stronger enforcement of trucker hours of service limits. On April 5, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a final rule requiring the use of electronic on-board recorders on certain commercial motor vehicles. EOBRs are electronic devices attached to commercial motor vehicles that objectively record the time that truckers spend driving the vehicle. EOBRs also record the name of the driver, duty status, date and time, location of the vehicle, distance travelled and other related driver and vehicle information.

Without EOBRs truckers must retain paper hours of service log books, toll receipts and delivery receipts to verify the hours they spend driving the commercial vehicle. The EOBR technology lessens the amount of fraudulent paper log book recording and helps reduce trucker driver fatigue.

The compliance date for the rule is June 3, 2012. But the FMCSA rule faces a few obstacles before it achieves its aim of making EOBRs a universal trucking requirement. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, one of the rule's biggest critics, has successfully challenged the rule at the federal court level over concerns that EOBRs could potentially be used for driver harassment.

The FMCSA has prepared a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to move forward with its EOBR rule. In order to obtain data to support the SNPRM the FMCSA plans to hold public listening sessions about the potential driver harassment issue and seeks recommendations about technical standards of the EOBR device from the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

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