The Future of Electronic On-board Recording Devices in the U.S.

semi truck driving down highway

Regulation proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calls for electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) to be installed in all interstate commercial trucks to monitor the number of hours a driver is on the road.

Much like the little black box on a plane, this device automatically records the amount of time a vehicle is driven. According to the proposal, commercial trucking companies would be required to install the on-board recorders in every interstate vehicle. The agency believes EOBRs would reduce the number of hours of service (HOS) violations by 40 percent.

Trucking industry safety groups such as Road Safe America are extremely supportive of the proposal. The group’s website declares the installation of EOBRs as one of its two primary objectives for additional road safety.

Trucking Industry’s Response

Small carriers, many already with a thin profit margin, say the cost of installing these devices would be a financial burden. However, other carriers have already installed the devices including Maverick USA, U.S. Express Enterprise, J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation and Schneider National. Monitoring the number of hours a driver has been on the road could increase road safety and reduce fatigue-related accidents. Some truck drivers have have voiced support for EOBRs and the time they would save by eliminating lengthy logbook record keeping.

Support also came from the American Trucking Association, a powerful voice in the trucking community, in a statement saying the Association endorses a policy that would require trucking companies to use electronic logging devices to monitor drivers’ HOS, with a few stipulations:

  • Cost-effective device specifications allowing for accurate recording of driving hours
  • Data ownership and access in order to protect the privacy of fleets and drivers alike
  • Relief from the current, significant burden of retaining additional supporting documentation

It is unknown at this time whether the proposal will meet the Association’s requirements. Final rulemaking on the plan is expected in June 2012.

Europe Ahead of U.S.

Similar on-board recorders already used in Europe are called tachographs. Trucking companies in the European Union are required to have digital tachographs installed in every vehicle, which are then monitored by the government. Some European recorders also monitor speed, which assists in accident investigations. U.S. EOBRs do not currently record speed.

Hours of Service Regulations

Hours of service rules regulate the number of hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle. The rules are intended to prevent driver fatigue, which is one of the causes of accidents in the United States. Currently, digital devices to record hours spent driving are voluntary and many drivers still use paper-based log books. Although there are penalties for a driver who is pulled over and found to be driving over the hours of service limit, the paper logbooks rely entirely on driver integrity and are subject to forgery. For many truckers who are paid only by the load or the mile, it is difficult to resist the temptation to drive longer than allowed in order to make more money.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious accident with a commercial truck that was the result of driver fatigue or other error, you have rights. Please contact us for a free consultation so we can explain your legal options. To see the cases our expert attorneys have already won, click here.

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