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Electronic on-board recorders as a brake on truck driver fatigue

When truck drivers get too tired, they tend to get into more accidents than if they are properly rested. That's why for many years, federal safety regulators have tried to tighten the rules on allowable hours of service. The goal, quite simply, is to prevent a truck accident from occurring because of driver fatigue.

Regulators have recently tweaked the hours-of-service rules. But to really enforce the rules, federal safety officials believe it is important to require trucks to have electronic on-board recorders to document how many hours truckers are actually driving.

The problem with the old, paper log system is that it is so easy - and therefore so tempting - for truckers to falsify the paper logs. Without the electronic record to monitor compliance, truckers may try to make it look like they aren't over their hours-of-service limits, even if they are.

Unfortunately, a rule to require trucks to install the EOBR devices has met with legal challenges by the trucking industry. The issue is now being contested in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court whose service area includes Wisconsin.

In August 2011, the Seventh Circuit held that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had not followed proper rulemaking procedures when issuing a rule requiring EOBRs, particularly in making sure that such a rule would not be used to harass drivers.

That holding, however, was far from the final word on the subject. The FMCSA has been redrafting the mandatory EOBR rule in response to the Seventh Circuit's concerns. The agency has also been promoting the voluntary use of EOBRs.

Source: "Court extends time for FMCSA to respond to OOIDA brief on EOBRs," The Trucker, 1-27-12

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