NTSB presses for mandatory EOBRs

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board this week issued its 2009 Federal Most Wanted List of highway safety improvements. Newly added to the list is one to require Electronic On-Board Recorders by all motor carriers.

"Our Most Wanted List, which was created in 1990, was designed to raise the public’s awareness and support for transportation safety issues," said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "The safety issues on this list are critical to improving transportation safety. When acted upon, these recommendations will reduce accidents and save lives."

It’s latest wish — "Require Electronic On-Board Data Recorders to Maintain Accurate Carrier Records on Driver Hours of Service and Accident Conditions — is a reiteration of what the NTSB told its sister agency at the DOT last year: Make EOBRs mandatory for all trucks.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s original plan called for EOBRs — once commonly referred to as "black boxes" — for a minimum of two years for carriers and independent owner-ops deemed "most likely to be a safety hazard on the road." Carriers charged with two serious HOS review violations (with a rate of violation greater than 10%), in a two-year period, will have to fit their fleet with EOBRs.

But NTSB said that proposal lacked teeth. More recently, FMCSA admitted it has gone back to the drawing board and is now considering a plan closer to the NTSB’s suggestion.

The board added this issue to the Most Wanted List because the current proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration "is not applicable to all operators subject to hours of service regulations, does not establish the proper incentives, and does not create a level playing field for compliance with the rules."

NTSB also added a wish to restrict the use of cellular telephones by motorcoach drivers. It’s possible the agency could eventually start pushing for restrictions on cell phone use by all CDL holders.

Remaining on the list in the highway mode:

Improve the Safety of Motor Carrier Operations; Prevent Medically Unqualified Drivers from Operating Commercial Vehicles; and Prevent Collisions by Using Enhanced Vehicle Safety Technology (such as collision warning and electronic stability control.)


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