FMCSA Makes Case for Electronic On Board Recorders
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently proposed that only the worst-performing trucking companies in the United States be required to have Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBR) to determine hours-of-service (HOS) violations by truck drivers. EOBR's monitor the truck driver's identity, date, time, location and distance traveled and are intended to prevent truckers from driving too long without resting. In a press release dated January 11, 2007, John Hill, Administrator of the FMCSA, stated the organization would make it its top priority to focus on those companies that are most likely to be a safety hazard on the road.
Under the FMCSA's proposed rule, truck and bus companies with a history of serious hours-of-service (HOS) violations will be required to install EOBR's in all of their commercials vehicles for a minimum of two years. The EOBR would not only track the driving hours of the truck drivers, but it would add to the vehicle Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to automatically identify the location of the vehicle, reducing the likelihood of falsification of hours-of-service information
Many of the catastrophic truck accidents that happen on our nation's roadways are caused by or involve tired truckers who are fatigued from driving so many hours without rest to meet their destination and deadline. Truck accidents have become a national epidemic as the pressure on trucking companies to deliver goods on time grows. More than 5,000 people are killed and 150,000 injured in truck accidents each year. Also, truck accidents are more likely to involve multiple vehicles and result in serious injuries and deaths than car accidents due to the enormous size and weight of most trucks.
With truck accidents, there is also a sizeable financial toll that goes along with catastrophic crashes. According to a 1999 study performed by the FMCSA, the average cost per crash involving a large truck is $75, 637. In 2001 alone, the total monetary expense of truck accidents for that year was over $32 billion. That number has certainly increased since then because the number of trucks on our nation's roadways has increased.
Trucker Fatigue is the leading cause of death in thousands of accidents and collisions on the roadways each year, and due to driver shortages and fear of getting fired for not delivering loads on time, truckers are driving too long without rest. EOBR's have not been mandated for use in all companies, and the research currently indicates that EOBR use is low, primarily due to overall system costs, a lack of EOBR safety and productivity returns-on-investment, and concern over what functionalities and standards will be needed should a mandate be issued.
Effects of EOBR's
Research has determined that small fleets and owner-operators will be hardest hit by a tmandated EOBR use; however, there have been strategies offered for minimizing cost impacts including investment tax credits and bulk-purchase pricing options.
Seventy-six percent of EOBR users have reported that EOBR usage has actually improved driver morale, 19% stated that they improved driver retention, and no EOBR user stated that driver retention was hurt by EOBR usage.
By updating the technology standards, the FMCSA can make the best use of modern and efficient communications, and uniformity will help drivers and law enforcement know how to use the updated devices regardless of which manufacturer or model they are using. This technology is yet another tool to ensure safe driver behavior. By following the hours-of-service rules and using EOBR's, the FMCSA can help to ensure that safe driving rules are being followed. This in turn, just may make our nation's roadways a little safer.
For these reasons,
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