Today the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would require interstate commercial truck and bus companies to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) to monitor their drivers’ hours-of-service (HOS) compliance. This wide-sweeping proposal is expected to impact approximately 500,000 carriers, according to DOT estimates. The agency will give carriers three years after the effective date to comply with the forthcoming rule.

In the NPRM, FMCSA is proposing that all interstate carriers who currently use Records of Duty (RODS) logbooks to document drivers’ HOS be required to use EOBRs.  Carriers found to be in violation of the EOBR requirement would face civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. Noncompliance would also negatively impact a carrier’s safety fitness rating and could put their DOT operating authority at risk. The requirement would not apply to short-haul interstate carriers who use timecards to document HOS compliance.

Always a hot-button issue, HOS has been at the forefront of FMCSA’s rulemaking efforts over the last several months. In late December, the agency issued an HOS NPRM that among other things included new limits for the 34-hour restart,mandatory breaks and the preference for a 10-hour driving limit. (The comment period on that NPRM closes on February 28, 2011.) In April 2010, FMCSA issued a final rule that mandates EOBRs for interstate carriers with serious patterns of HOS violations.

FMCSA’s latest HOS proposal also seeks to relieve interstate motor carriers from retaining certain HOS supporting documents (e.g., delivery and tool receipts) that  are currently used to verify logbook entries. This part of the proposal fulfills an order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia requiring FMCSA to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding supporting documents. The court-mandated deadline was today.

Click here to view a copy of FMCSA’s EOBR NPRM.