Five major U.S. freight transportation companies recently announced their support for legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would require trucking companies engaged in interstate commerce to install electronic onboard recorders in all trucks in order to verify the duty status of their truck drivers.
The "Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act" will require commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce to install the electronic devices within 3 years after the passage of the legislation.
The companies announcing their endorsement of the bill are J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., Knight Transportation, Maverick USA, Schneider National, Inc., and U.S. Xpress Enterprises. The companies are forming an industry coalition called "The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security" to urge Congress to pass the legislation and to also advance other measures that can improve highway safety within the trucking industry and benefit the motoring public. Executives for the companies recommend all transportation firms that embrace the legislation join the coalition and support the effort.
If passed, the legislation will require companies to install an electronic device that is engaged to the truck engine which will identify the driver operating the truck, record a driver's duty status, and is capable of monitoring the location and movement of the vehicle. The legislation calls for utilizing existing technology and devices that are currently in the marketplace.
The legislation is needed, as the federal government continues to rely primarily on a mechanism adopted in the 1930s whereby drivers fill out paper "log books" to verify their compliance with hours-of-service regulations. Electronic onboard recorders will remove much of the guesswork for law enforcement officers in determining whether the driver is compliant.
Passing the bill "will improve safety on our nation's highways by applying technology to document driver compliance," said Craig Harper, Chief Operating Officer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., in Lowell, Arkansas.
Kevin Knight, Chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, said, "This legislation is a sensible initiative to improve working conditions for commercial drivers and to promote highway safety," adding that "under a uniform standard, the public will be able to rely on the hours in service of all drivers rather than just some drivers."
"Mandating the use of electronic onboard recorders commits the entire supply chain to meeting the challenges that faces this generation in surface transportation," commented Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas. Williams, a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations, said that installing these devices will help assure the public that people who drive commercial vehicles are "well trained, drug and alcohol free, and sufficiently rested."
Donald Osterberg, Senior Vice President of Safety for Schneider National in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said that while the current federal hours-of-service rules are "science based, reasonable, and effective," the problem under the status quo is that there is a "lack of compliance with the rules" saying that "fatigue is underreported and thus underestimated as a causal factor in truck-involved crashes. Electronic logs take the non-compliance issues off the table."
"The use of onboard recorders as outlined in the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act will enhance accountability, compliance, and safety," said Patrick E. Quinn, Co-Chairman and President of U.S. Xpress Enterprises in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and also a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations.
Bill Vickery, a spokesman for the coalition, said that the group will urge other U.S. Senators to co-sponsor the Pryor/Alexander legislation and hope that Congress will pass the legislation in 2011.