In a move I anticipated in my December 16, 2008 post, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairwoman Debbie Hersman recently stated that electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) should be placed in all commercial trucks to monitor driver hours. Hersman made the statement on November 16 in Washington, D.C. at a National Press Club luncheon.
In her remarks at the luncheon and a Q&A that followed, Hersman discussed NTSB procedures, its role in public safety, and its relationship with the media. She stated that fatigue is an enormous problem for the transportation industry, noting, “[We] continue to see fatigue in truck and bus accidents. One thing that we feel very strongly about is that they ought to have electronic onboard recorders in all trucks.”
Her remarks are the latest salvo in the ongoing battle over truck drivers’ hours of service (HOS) rules, rules that I predicted would be revisited in 2009, and which are in serious need of change. Current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) HOS rules allow drivers too much freedom to work inordinate numbers of hours and lead to truck accidents caused by fatigue. As I stated in my post of December 16, 2008 , the new FMCSA administrator must be called upon either through language added to a transportation bill, another decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., or by a congressional mandate to review and revise the HOS rules.
I believe now, as I did last December, that mandatory EOBRs will be phased in over the next several years. Chairwoman Hersman’s statements are a good step toward that goal.