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In an effort to curb truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is going to require nearly 5,700 interstate truck and bus companies to use new electronic tracking of service hours for each driver. Commercial carriers are required to closely track their drivers’ hours of service for safety reasons. Drivers must avoid fatigue by limiting their hours and taking mandated rest periods. Drivers have traditionally maintained their own manual logbooks or used older, less advanced electronic tracking devices.

The FMCSA, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, aims to reduce safety violations and fraudulent records by moving toward upgraded, automatic in-cab tracking of hours on the road. In 2012, it will enact a policy requiring new electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in every vehicle operated by companies with serious levels of hours-of-service violations. The EOBRs are attached to each vehicle to automatically track driving time.

The new rule takes effect in June 2012 for companies that record at least 10 percent hours-of-service violations in their required compliance reviews. An estimated 930 companies will need to use the devices at first. For at least two years, those companies will be required to install EOBRs that meet new federal guidelines.

The agency is also considering a broader rule requiring EOBRs for all carriers; this may eventually cover 5,700 companies. In exchange, companies that employ the EOBRs will not have to file toll receipts and other supporting documentation for logbooks.

This concession is not adequate for many trucking companies or the American Trucking Association. They are concerned that the new guidelines will make the new EOBR devices prohibitively expensive. The new devices must work effectively from minus 40 degrees to 85 degrees, and must operate through a USB port. This will require replacing many existing EOBRs with a more expensive model.

The FMCSA defends the new requirements by claiming the requirements will boost safety and save money in the long run. The agency estimates that the new requirements will cost the industry $139 million per year, but could amount to $182 million in positive safety-related benefits.