New Legislation Requires Electronic Recorders to Monitor Regulations

Should all interstate commercial carriers be mandated to install onboard electronic recorders, subject to the hour of service (HOS) rules? New legislation introduced by Senators Mark Pryor and Lamar Alexander this past September pushes Congress to answer this question. The main goal of the bill is to increase compliance with HOS rules, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is currently rewriting, in hopes of reducing truck accidents and increasing public confidence in the motor carrier industry as a whole.

EOBRs Explained

Electric onboard recorders (EOBRs) are devices installed in commercial vehicles to record how much a truck or van has been driven. They can be costly to install and maintain, because they are connected to the vehicle's central electrical controls. They can be effective in improving a driver's compliance and efficiency when they also track particular drivers, are tamper-proof, and allow company personnel access to the truck's current location and information. However, a direct link between EOBRs and less crashes is up for debate.

Bill Breakdown

Currently, the FMCSA is reworking the HOS rules and the requirement for frequent HOS offenders to install EOBRs in their vehicles for a minimum of two years. The new legislation, named the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, seeks to enhance these rules, as well as driver performance. The bill also limits how data gathered from the EOBRs can be used legally, stating that only the driver's compliance or non-compliance with HOS rules is admissible. If passed, the EOBR mandate would not be enforced for three years.

Safety Solutions

According to a member of an alliance of trucking companies backing the bill, studies prove a connection between compliance with HOS rules and a decreased accident rate, so tools like EOBRs can impact road safety. However, there are also other technologies like stability control and lane departure warning devices that trucking advocates, such as the American Trucking Association (ATA), think would have a greater potential to prevent accidents than EOBRs. The ATA also prefers voluntary instead of required use of such technologies.

Awaiting Action

Efforts to get the EOBR bill passed next year continue and advocates are working to keep the legislation unattached to existing stalled transportation bills. Until then, commercial vehicle drivers must brace themselves for whatever rules and requirements may be implemented, including mandating vehicle compliance or safety devices like EOBRs. For now, all drivers who share the road with commercial drivers must be watchful to avoid a commercial truck accident. If an accident with a commercial truck does occur, contact a personal injury attorney immediately.