Safety & Compliance

Searching For Middle Ground In Highway Debate

May 2008, - Feature

by Oliver Patton, Washington Editor

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FMCSA Update: EOBR, Learner Permit Standards

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may expand its proposed requirement for electronic onboard recorders to include all carriers, rather than just those who persistently violate the hours of service rules.

"I am asking [FMCSA] staff to look at ways we can expand that rule and still be within the scope of what we published," FMCSA Administrator John Hill said in remarks to the National Industrial Transportation League.

Under the proposed rule, the agency would require mandatory recorders for carriers that violate the hours rules 10 percent or more of the time, as determined in two compliance reviews within a two-year period.

That approach was the middle of three options the agency considered for its proposal. The lesser option was to keep recorders optional. The greater was to require them industry-wide.

Hill did not say definitely that the agency will switch to the universal option - he is precluded by law from discussing the proposal in detail - but this marks at least the second time he has indicated that the agency is looking at a stricter approach.

In other news, the agency proposed to revise its knowledge and skills tests for the commercial license, and to set new standards for states to issue commercial learner's permits.

Under the proposal, an applicant for a learner's permit would have to pass the knowledge test. Also, a would-be driver would have to obtain the learner's permit and hold it for a month before applying for a CDL. The state would have to check the driver's record before issuing the permit.

In addition, the agency proposed tougher documentation requirements for both permit and license applicants - states would have to check the applicant's Social Security number with the Social Security Administration, for example.

The proposal was published in the April 9 Federal Register.

Hill also said the agency is working on a proposal to create a database for driver drug and alcohol testing. This is in response to concerns about "job hoppers" - drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol and are fired by the carrier, but soon find a way to pass the drug test without going through the required rehabilitation program and are hired by another carrier.

The agency's plan is to come up with a rule that would identify drivers who do not comply with the rules, and give carriers access to that information.

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