The U.S. Department of Transportation has once again extended the application deadline for a pilot project that lets carriers replace paper logs with electronic logs linked the satellite-tracking systems.
Fleets have been allowed to use on-board recording devices in lieu of hand written records since 1988, but DOT says that the “narrowly crafted” on-board recorder rules are obsolete.
In early 1998 it launched a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of satellite systems for tracking driver hours. Werner Enterprises was the first carrier to sign up for the program, and is still the only carrier participating. Originally carriers were given until October 1998 to submit applications. The deadline has been extended twice since then -- most recently to the end of December 2000.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says many carriers have expressed interest but say they either need to make modifications to their current systems or are waiting for modifications before purchasing GPS at all. But industry insiders cite much more serious concerns.
For some time now, carriers and the government have been at odds over access to electronically generated information such as GPS data. FMCSA has basically indicated that it ought to be fair game for safety compliance auditors -- but presently says it won’t be demanded unless problems are suspected. Carriers say electronic record keeping isn’t required by regulation, thus is out-of-bounds to inspectors. The detailed information, many argue, could not only be used to “nitpick” carriers in compliance reviews but could also provide welcome statistics for states looking to impose more user taxes on trucks.
But the future of the GPS pilot project, at this point, likely hinges on FMCSA’s eagerly
anticipated proposed changes to hours-of-service rules. “Black boxes” are reportedly a
recommended requirement, thus GPS will no doubt be part of the debate -- pilot project or not.
For information about the pilot program call Neill Thomas, Office of Bus and Truck
Standards and Operations, (202) 366-4009.