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FMCSA Rules On On-board Recorders To Change in June

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation have amended safety regulations relating to the use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) on tractor trailers. The new rules, which go into effect June 4, will update specifications for such devices and mandate that some trucking companies with multiple violations of the Hours of Service regulations install an EOBR.

EOBRs are devices or a series of recorders built into the truck’s existing on-board electronics that track the patterns of the driver to make sure he or she is complying with Hours of Service regulations. Currently, the use of EOBRs is completely voluntary.

A company will need to have a 10 percent violation rate in order for the mandate to apply. Should a company reach this violation rate, all of their commercial trucks will need to be fitted with a regulation compliant EOBR for two years.

Many companies already use some type of electronic tracking to voluntarily enforce the Hours of Service regulations. These rules are important because they prohibit drivers from overworking themselves to the point of fatigue. Numerous studies show that driver fatigue is a significant contributor to serious tractor trailer crashes.

Many in the commercial trucking industry have speculated that we will eventually move to regulations that require all trucking companies, regardless of their violation history, to install EOBRs on their fleet of trucks. Some opponents feel that this will create an unfair financial burden on companies. Others point to the fact that many companies already use similar devices or have thousands of dollars of on-board electronics already.

The new ruling represents a nice compromise for the moment. Only the companies that have repeatedly demonstrated a negligent pattern of behavior will be mandated to install the devices at the moment. Hopefully targeting this high-risk group of trucking companies will successfully limit the number of tractor trailer accident fatalities caused by fatigued driving.