June 8, 1999
The Department of Transportation still does not know exactly how it is going to get agreement on driver hours-of-service reform.
A negotiated rulemaking is not likely, said Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety chief Julie Cirillo in an interview with RoadStar. But some sort of negotiation is needed to keep all the stakeholders involved: "We are trying to figure out how we are going to engage the community in the process."
She said that many ideas are on the table, including holding "listening sessions" for industry and other stakeholders. A recommendation will go to DOT Secretary Rodney Slater "shortly," she said.
Cirillo said she believes onboard recorders would work well for keeping driver logs for a large part of the industry — but not for every kind of operation. "I don't know that … we will mandate onboard recorders, but I certainly think that they are a positive step toward managing hours of service and improving safety."
She said one possibility is a rule that would include different standards for different kinds of operations — but warned that such a universal solution would be quite complex.
"That's the tradeoff we have to make. ... The more complicated you make it, the more likely you are to have mistakes and violations."
Cirillo emphasized many of these same issues at a town hall meeting on hours of service held yesterday at the International Trucking Show in Las Vegas. While she stopped short of saying onboard recorders would be mandated, she did say there could be some sort of incentives developed for their use, such as a tax break or allowing drivers with the recorders to drive longer hours.
Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. was very outspoken at the town hall meeting against the use of onboard recorders. For his small business members, he said, they are simply not financially justified. In addition, he said, they don't prevent fatigue.
Cirillo also said several times during the meeting that the proposed rulemaking, which she says will probably appear in the Federal Register before the summer's out, will likely be based on a 24-hour clock.