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FMCSA finally announces proposed rule on electronic driver logs

March 13, 2014

Following years of delay, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finally announced a proposal to require interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their vehicles to improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work. The announcement was made on March 13.

Many truck fleets--tank truck carriers among them—have been using electronic driver logs for several years, and the popularity of these systems has been growing. Unfortunately, FMCSA dragged its feet on an industrywide mandate, and fleets that invested in the technology and their drivers were forced to continue using the paper logbooks as well.

"ATA (the American Trucking Associations) supports FMCSA's efforts to mandate these devices in commercial vehicles as a way to improve safety and compliance in the trucking industry and to level the playing field for thousands of fleets that have already voluntarily moved to this technology," says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, who notes that ATA has some concerns about details relating to supporting document retention requirements and grandfathering of existing devices.

ATA actively and successfully advocated for inclusion of an ELD mandate in the most recent highway authorization legislation. "We're pleased that we are now seeing a proposal from FMCSA," says Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice-president. "After carefully considering stakeholder input on this proposal, we urge the agency to move quickly to craft a final rule that ensures deployment of tamper-proof equipment, while still ensuring the regulatory flexibility needed to accommodate the diversity of the trucking industry and the ELD vendor community.

"We especially appreciate FMCSA proposing that paper printouts of ELD data be an acceptable means of demonstrating hours-of-service compliance, but not requiring ELDs to be printer-equipped."

FMCSA acknowledged in its press release that the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking would significantly reduce the paperwork burden associated with hours-of-service recordkeeping for interstate truck and bus drivers--the largest in the federal government following tax-related filings--and improve the quality of logbook data.

"Today's proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork--exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "By leveraging innovative technology with electronic logging devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors."

FMCSA now claims the proposed rule will ultimately reduce hours-of-service violations by making it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their time on logbooks and avoid detection by FMCSA and law enforcement personnel. Agency analysis suggests the mandate will help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million.

"By implementing Electronic Logging Devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S Ferro. "With broad support from safety advocates, carriers, and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries."

The Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which was sent to the Federal Register to publish on March 12, supersedes a prior 2011 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to electronic on-board recorders. It includes provisions to:

  • Respect driver privacy by ensuring that ELD records continue to reside with the motor carriers and drivers. Electronic logs will continue to only be made available to FMCSA personnel or law enforcement during roadside inspections, compliance reviews, and post-crash investigations.
  • Protect drivers from harassment through an explicit prohibition on harassment by a motor carrier owner towards a driver using information from an ELD. It will also establish a procedure for filing a harassment complaint and creates a maximum civil penalty of up to $11,000 for a motor carrier that engages in harassment of a driver that leads to an hours-of-service violation or the driver operating a vehicle when they are so fatigued or ill it compromises safety. The proposal will also ensure that drivers continue to have access to their own records and require ELDs to include a mute function to protect against disruptions during sleeper berth periods.
  • Increase efficiency for law enforcement personnel and inspectors who review driver logbooks by making it more difficult for drivers to cheat when submitting their records of duty status and ensuring the electronic logs can be displayed and reviewed electronically, or printed, with potential violations flagged.

In developing the updated proposal, FMCSA relied on input from its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, feedback from two public listening sessions and comments filed during an extended period following the 2011 proposed rule. The proposal also incorporates the mandates included in the most recent transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, and other statutes.

On August 1, 2013, the Obama Administration announced another proposal to eliminate a burdensome daily paperwork requirement for professional truck drivers, daily vehicle inspection reports, and reduce costs to the industry by an estimated $1.7 billion annually while maintaining safety standards: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/news-releases/2013/FMCSA-46-13.aspx.

For more information on the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Electronic Logging Devices, see: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/rulemakings/rule-programs/rule_making_details.aspx?ruleid=475.

About the Author

Charles Wilson