Proposed Rule Prompted by Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue

Commercial truck drivers in interstate commerce are required to keep a log of the hours of service to ensure compliance with the federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that limit the amount of time a driver can be on the road. The HOS regulations are meant to prevent accidents with tractor-trailer trucks and other large commercial vehicles caused by driver fatigue, including accidents where the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel or drove carelessly because he or she was too tired to use good judgment.

In lieu of a paper log, trucking companies and other motor carriers can use electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) to record the truck driver’s HOS. EOBRs are generally more reliable and harder to tamper with in the event of an accident. This is important because when a commercial truck is in an accident, the EOBR data can be analyzed to determine if truck driver fatigue caused the accident.

Recognizing the importance of EOBRs, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finalized a rule in 2010 requiring motor carriers with a history of HOS regulation violations to install EOBRs, but the rule was vacated by the 7th Circuit: Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 656 F.3d 580 (7th Cir. Aug. 26, 2011). The Court held that, contrary to statutory requirements, FMCSA failed to address the issue of driver harassment, including how EOBRs could potentially be used to harass drivers and ways to ensure that EOBRs were not used to harass drivers.

Undaunted, in February 2011, FMCSA proposed a rule that would require almost all motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce to use EOBRs to document their drivers’ hours of service. Under this proposal, all motor carriers currently required to maintain Records of Duty Status (RODS) for HOS record keeping would be required to use EOBRs to monitor their drivers’ compliance with HOS requirements.

It has been a year since FMCSA proposed the rule, referred to as the Electronic On-Board Recorders and Hours of Service Supporting Documents (EOBR-2). FMCSA announced last week that it intends to move forward with the rule by preparing a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM). To augment the Agency’s efforts to obtain comprehensive data to support this SNPRM, FMCSA plans to do the following: hold listening sessions on the issue of driver harassment; task the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to assist in developing material to support this rulemaking, including technical specifications for EOBRs and their potential to be used to harass drivers; and conduct research by surveying drivers, carriers, and vendors regarding harassment issues.

EOBR-2 would be good news for accident victims and their families who have a right to know if truck driver fatigue contributed to the accident and if there was a pattern of HOS violations before the accident. Contact me if you or a loved one has been in an accident and want to get data from an EOBR. I can be reached at 1-888-377-8900 (toll free) or submit our free consultation form.

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Category: Accidents
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