A new federal regulation will require trucking companies that repeatedly violate driver time limits to install electronic recorders that track how long drivers are at the wheel.
But the recorders will only be required for trucking companies found deficient during on-site compliance reviews, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Only about 1 to 2 percent of the 750,000 trucking companies in the U.S. are reviewed on site each year.
The new regulation was issued Friday, one week after a tractor-trailer crossed the Interstate-65 median near Munfordville and slammed into a van, killing 10 people and the truck driver. The accident is still under investigation.
Gerald Donaldson, senior safety director for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said even large trucking companies might go as many as 20 years without an on-site review.
Hester Inc., the carrier involved in last week’s crash, was given a “deficient” rating in February based on failed driver’s inspections and moving violations, but was not subject to an on-site review.
Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokeswoman Shashunga Clayton declined to say exactly why that was, but she cited a policy that reviews are routinely ordered only on carriers found deficient in multiple areas.
The Administration announced Friday that it will conduct an on-site review of Fayette, Ala.-based Hester because of the fatal accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for the electronic recorders for 30 years and has recommended that every carrier be required to use them.
Drivers are already required to record the number of hours they drive, but safety advocates have said the paper logbooks are so easily forged that they are known in the industry as “comic books.”
Federal rules limit the number of hours drivers may work each day and week and specify how long they must rest.
Under the new regulation, carriers must use the electronic recorders if the on-site review finds they violate hours of service rules 10 percent of the time or more. The Transportation Department expects to have 5,700 carriers using the devices by the end of the program’s first year.
The American Trucking Association spokesman Clayton Boyce said the group supports the regulation because it makes use of the recorders largely voluntary except in cases where carriers are severely noncompliant.
But Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the 156,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, questioned the cost of the recorders and whether they would really reduce accident rates.
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