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Impact of US EOBR ruling on Canadian carriers likely to be minor: CTA

OTTAWA, Ont. -- The US Federal Motor Carrier Administrations proposed ruling on electronic onboard recorders may h...

OTTAWA, Ont. — The US Federal Motor Carrier Administrations proposed ruling on electronic onboard recorders may have a relatively minor impact on Canadian carriers, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

However, Transport Canada and the provinces may well take their lead from the US in terms of an EOBR policy in this country.

In a closed briefing for media representatives today, the head of the US Federal Motor Carrier Administration, John Hill, outlined the main thrust of the long awaited rule on electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for trucks. The notice of proposed rulemaking to be issued on January 18 will require carriers with two serious hours of service review violations within a two-year period to equip their fleets with EOBRs, also for a two-year period. According to information provided by FMCSA, this would affect 930 carriers and 17,500 drivers based on todays safety performance statistics.

Hill reportedly stated that EOBRs will continue to be voluntary for all other carriers, although the agency will introduce as yet unspecified incentives to encourage the use of EOBRs in trucks operating in the US.

It seems that FMCSAs intention is to issue compliance orders based on HOS violations found during an audit or compliance review as it is known in the US rather than in roadside inspections, the CTA pointed out in explaining why it felt the ruling would not have a large impact on Canadian carriers.

The proposed rule, which will be subject to a 90-day public comment period, is expected to take effect between 18 and 24 months from now.

Although modifications are possible following the comment period, FMCSAs reported plan will require that EOBRs installed in vehicles manufactured within two years of the rules effective date be capable of recording the identity of the driver, duty status, date, time and location of the truck and distance traveled. In addition, we are told that GPS or some other location tracking system will be mandated. It would seem that FMCSA intends to grandfather EOBRs voluntarily installed before the rule takes effect, for the remaining life of the vehicle, the CTA commented in a release.

It comes as no surprise to CTA that the US government has elected not to mandate EOBRs on all trucks, although the Alliance hopes that the yet-to-be announced incentives for voluntary compliance will be the start of an industry trend away from paper logbooks, the CTA further stated in its release.

In late 2004, CTA announced its position on EOBR use and called for mandatory onboard recorders on all trucks, with the choice of technology left to carriers. However, a key component of CTAs position was that government policies on EOBRs must be fully harmonized between Canada and the US.

According to CTA CEO, David Bradley, our concern with making EOBRs mandatory only for repeat violators is that it holds those carriers of any size, who are more likely to cross a scale or to have an audit to a higher standard than others.

All the more reason he says why meaningful incentives will need to be provided to carriers by governments in both countries if a voluntary approach is to take hold.

Clearly the continued use of paper logbooks to ensure adherence with the hours of service regulations in todays high tech trucks is not supportable in the longer term. The sooner governments provide carriers that are already using EOBRs, or those who would be willing to adopt them, with meaningful incentives, the better will be compliance with hours of service rules and the more level the playing field will be for all, he said.

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