WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation has cleared one of the final hurdles to publishing a rule on electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs).
According to Reginfo.gov of the General Services Administration, an EOBR rule was finished being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thurs. March, 18; and has been sent back to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for publishing.
More details will likely emerge in the coming days, but the rule does not appear to mandate EOBRs for all carriers operating in the U.S. — for now.
According to the official post-review Abstract, the devices will be required as a "remedial directive," for motor carriers that "have demonstrated a history of serious noncompliance with the hours-of-service rules."
It’s unknown whether this mirrors a previous FMCSA proposal that suggested EOBRs be required for carriers charged with two serious HOS review violations (with a rate of violation greater than 10 percent), in a two-year period.
That proposal was criticized by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board as being too soft.
There are reports, though, that the rule will have plenty of room to include a wider mandate eventually.
"Let’s see the rule," Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley tells todaystrucking.com via email, "it looks like there may be some progression towards a more universal program. Perhaps if one or two large US carriers get caught in the web you might see more pressure to move to a universal mandate."
The new rulemaking would also require new FMCSA performance standards for EOBR devices.
What those standards are also remains unclear at this time, but they will be required for EOBRs installed in commercial motor vehicles manufactured two years after the effective date of a final rule.
EOBRs meeting FMCSA´s current requirements and voluntarily installed in trucks manufactured before that date could continue to be used for the remainder of the service life of the vehicle.
Carriers with a history of HOS noncompliance would be subject to mandatory installation of EOBRs meeting the new performance standards on the entire fleet, however, regardless of the model year of those trucks or whether the carrier already had equipped its vehicles with EOBRs meeting the agency´s current requirements.
The rule also states that FMCSA would encourage voluntary industry-wide use of EOBRs by providing "incentives for motor carriers; revising FMCSA’s compliance review procedures to permit examination of a random sample of drivers´ records of duty status; and providing partial relief from HOS supporting documents requirements, if certain conditions are satisfied."
North of the border the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has begun drafting a related rule on EOBRs.
The limited scope of the U.S. rule, even temporarily, could mean that the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s wish for a universal mandate for all carriers in Canada would be difficult to pass, although not out of the question as Ontario and Quebec, for example, have distinct speed limiter laws.
Meanwhile, FMCSA also sent the White House its proposal for banning truck drivers from text messaging while operating a vehicle.
The DOT arbitrarily issued a directive urging local enforcement of the rule, but some state agencies are refusing to act unless specific federal legislation is passed.
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