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FMCSA to Propose Broader Use of EOBRs to Monitor Drivers
Monday, 14 December 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is preparing to propose requiring “a much larger population of carriers” to use electronic onboard recorders to monitor driver hours-of-service than it earlier envisioned, an agency official said.

The safety agency is readying its new proposal before finalizing a Bush administration rule that would have required only a few carriers to use the technology.

Larry Minor, FMCSA associate administrator of policy and program development, told Transport Topics Dec. 8 the new proposal “would require EOBRs for a larger population of carriers.”

Under the Bush administration’s EOBR proposal—which is on course to become a final rule—only carriers that failed multiple compliance reviews would have had to use the technology. However, former FMCSA Administrator John Hill said before leaving office that the final rule would expand the number of fleets required to use the technology beyond what had initially been proposed.

FMCSA’s new proposal appeared for the first time in the agency’s monthly report this month on significant rulemakings, with a projected publishing date of December 2010.

As part of the “the new EOBR initiative, FMCSA also would consider addressing the hours-of-service supporting documents requirements” that spell out what evidence carriers need to retain to verify their logbook entries, the report said.

In October, American Trucking Associations said it was exploring options to get the agency to move forward on the oft-delayed supporting documents rule.

Dave Osiecki, ATA’s vice president of safety, security and operations, said it was “hard to understand” why FMCSA would attach the documents rule to a new EOBR regulation.

Osiecki questioned why the agency didn’t fold the supporting documents rule into its expedited review of the hours-of-service rule.

“It just seems like a natural fit,” he said, rather than attaching it to the new EOBR proposal “whose timeline is really further out.”

The FMCSA monthly report also listed the final EOBR rule, begun during the Bush administration, as still under departmental review; it was expected to be transmitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for a final review by Dec. 7.

As of press time the OMB’s list of regulations under review did not include the EOBR rule.

Minor told TT that to further expand the population of carriers, the agency must move forward with a new notice of proposed rulemaking.

He said that in the final rule, FMCSA was “trying to go as far as we can” within the scope of the original notice of proposed rule-making. Because that formal document “didn’t propose a universal mandate or a larger population of carriers,” Minor said, “we couldn’t address that issue in the final rule.”

After taking office, the Obama administration withdrew the rule from the OMB, but DOT had yet to send it back.

Lena Pons, a policy analyst with Public Citizen, told TT that it was “certainly well within the agency’s discretion to revise the rule.”

Osiecki said it was “intriguing” that FMCSA has “a rule that will go so far, and they are already working on another rule that will go farther.”

“There’s an interest in Congress to go to a mandate,” he said. “So it’s hard for me to understand why they are taking the interim step.”

“It’s interesting that they are taking that approach,” said Steve Keppler, interim executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, though he cautioned that “it might make sense to step back a bit and maybe do one rulemaking, rather than two separate ones.”

Keppler said the law enforcement group believes that “there needs to be pursuit of a larger mandate on EOBRs,” but that as the agency requires more trucks to use the technology, there are “significant” issues related to training and capital investment for both the industry and enforcement.

“Hopefully, they would consider those implementation issues before they take the approach with two separate rulemakings,” he said.

Judith Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told TT that she was “delighted to see that’s in the works, but the devil’s in the details.”

Stone spoke to TT during a meeting of an FMCSA advisory panel discussing hours-of-service.

During the advisory meeting, Bob Pentracosta, vice president of safety for Con-way Freight, said that “maybe it is time that EOBRs be considered.”

“EOBRs are a must,” said Jennifer Tierney, a member of the Truck Safety Coalition and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

Tierney also criticized the Bush-era proposal to require EOBRs only after a carrier is cited during a compliance review as “being reactive, not proactive.”

Transport Topics, 12/14/2009