UPDATED -- Key technical details of the pending electronic onboard recorder mandate are scheduled to be discussed this week at a meeting of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. At the request of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the committee has been looking into issues such as how best to give roadside inspectors access to electronic logs.
A working group within the committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to the full panel tomorrow.

The panel was scheduled to meet today with the FMCSA Medical Review Board on how to address sleep apnea in truck drivers, but that meeting has been postponed due to aftereffects from Hurricane Irene.

The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee is a panel of 19 officials from the industry, the enforcement community and labor and safety advocacy groups to which the agency turns for feedback and ideas on industry issues.

Earlier this year the agency asked for advice on how to implement next year's partial EOBR requirement and, by extension, the near-full mandate that will go into effect three to four years after the rule is made final.

Next year's rule targets habitual hours of service violators. Effective June 1, 2012, carriers that violate the hours of service rules 10% of the time will have to use the electronic devices. The broader mandate will cover all carriers except short-haulers that use time cards instead of logs.

The agency's aim is to have all the details settled by next year so that the industry can see exactly what the EOBR requirements will be when the broader mandate is expected to kick in.

At issue is the agency's decision to build a wireless web-based system for transmitting electronic logs between the truck and roadside enforcement. Last June the agency asked the committee to come up with recommendations on how to put such a system together.

Among the details to be clarified are how the EOBR can wirelessly identify and connect to external networks so the data can be transmitted, and how to establish a communications protocol that is both timely and secure. Other issues have to do with the transmission of the data through telematics application services, USB connections and the 802.11wireless local area network.

The committee put the questions to a task force of its members, and that group is scheduled to present its conclusions on Tuesday. The committee will review this material and come up with recommendations for the agency later this year.

Sleep Apnea

The sleep apnea consultation is the next step toward possible regulatory guidance on this issue.

The Medical Review Board, a panel of medical experts who advice the agency on standards and health, has for several years supported stricter regulatory standards for sleep apnea. In 2008 the Board recommended that the agency require all drivers to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, a significant change from the current rules that do not explicitly require testing and treatment.

The Board said that a diagnosis of sleep apnea should not necessarily bar a driver from certification, but that certification should be conditioned on the severity of the apnea and its impact on a driver's sleepiness, or on whether the driver is getting the treatment he needs.

It posted a long and detailed list of specific criteria for denying medical certification, including having been involved in a crash associated with falling asleep at the wheel and failing to comply with prescribed sleep apnea treatment.

The Board also has recommendations regarding overweight drivers. Doctors say obesity can be an indicator of sleep apnea although it is not necessarily decisive - other factors such as age and blood pressure are also important. Studies show that a person's body mass index, a ratio of weight to height that measures obesity, can signal the possibility of sleep apnea, and the Board recommended that a BMI of 30 or greater be grounds for rejecting a driver's application pending the outcome of a sleep study.

These issues and others are likely to be covered in discussions at the MCSAC meeting today.

Also on the committee's agenda for the three-day meeting are details of the CSA safety enforcement system and the cross-border pilot program with Mexico.