A long-awaited proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) would require interstate carriers to outfit trucks and buses with electronic recorders to make sure drivers comply with rules on how much time they can spend at the wheel. The recorders would replace the easily falsified handwritten logbooks drivers keep to catalog their work hours.
Onboard recorders reduce violations because they automatically record when a truck is driven. Their wider use "would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their hours of service compliance," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in unveiling the proposal Jan. 31.
That's what the Institute has been saying for more than 20 years. The Institute first petitioned the federal government in 1986 to require recorders in all large trucks. Since then, the Institute has submitted 4 additional petitions and more than 20 comments calling for an onboard recorder requirement (see "Trucker fatigue: 1 of 5 drivers reports falling asleep at the wheel," Oct. 7, 2006, "All trucks need recorders, not just those driven by habitual violators," June 15, 2007, and "Rejected: electronic recorders," Feb. 14, 2009).
"The agency should quickly move ahead with its proposed mandate for electronic onboard recorders," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. "Years of Institute research have documented the widespread work-rule violations among long-distance truckers, the association between violations and dozing at the wheel, and the increased percentage of trucks already equipped with onboard recorders."
FMCSA seeks to broaden the use of recorders beyond the carriers that will be required to install them under a remedial directive published in April 2010. Slated to go into effect in June 2012, the rule applies only to carriers with a record of egregious hours of service violations. This group makes up a small fraction of all carriers (see "Agency rejects recorder rule for all big rigs," June 19, 2010).
The new proposal, which has the support of the American Trucking Associations, would affect about half a million carriers who use logbooks. The mandate would exclude short-haul interstate carriers that use timecards instead of logbooks.