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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to introduce legislation with Senator Alexander of Tennessee that I believe will have a dramatic impact on the safety of our Nation's highways and interstates, called the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act. This bill will require the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA, to implement regulations requiring the use of electronic on-board recording devices, EOBRs, for motor carriers in order to improve compliance with Hours-of-Service, HOS, regulations. Requiring the use of these technologies in motor carriers will not only improve compliance with HOS regulations, but it will also reduce the number of fatigued commercial motor vehicle drivers on the road. This will have a profound impact on highway safety and reduce accidents and fatalities on our highways and interstates.

Hours-of-Service regulations place limits on when and how long commercial motor vehicle drivers may drive. These regulations are based on an exhaustive scientific review and are designed to ensure truck drivers get the necessary rest to drive safely. In developing HOS rules, the FMCSA reviewed existing fatigue research and worked with nongovernmental organizations like the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies and the National Institute for Occupational Safety. HOS regulations are designed to continue the downward trend in truck driving fatalities and maintain motor carrier operational efficiencies.

Unfortunately, compliance with HOS regulations is often spotty due to inaccurate reporting by drivers as they are only required to fill out a paper log, a tracking method that dates back to the 1930s. Inaccurate reporting may result from an honest mistake or an intentional error by a driver seeking to extend his work day. These inaccuracies can lead to too much time on the road, leaving the driver fatigued and placing other drivers at risk. After listening to the many interest groups and experts on this issue in meetings and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearings, I have come to learn that there is an available and affordable twenty-first-century technology that can ensure accurate logs, enhance compliance, and reduce the number of fatigued drivers on the road. They are being used today, and they are producing results. I believe that widespread utilization of these devices as soon as possible will significantly reduce further loss of life resulting from driver fatigue.

Our legislation will require motor carriers to install in their trucks an electronic device that performs multiple tasks to ensure compliance with HOS regulations. These devices must be engaged to the truck engine control module and capable of identifying the driver operating the truck, recording a driver's duty status, and monitoring the location and movement of the vehicle. Requiring electronic log books that are integrally connected to the vehicle engine as this bill requires will dramatically increase the accuracy of information submitted for hours of service compliance. Our bill will also require these recording devices to be tamper resistant and fully accessible by law enforcement personnel and Federal safety regulators only for purposes of enforcement and compliance reviews.

While I understand that some drivers may be reluctant to transition to electronic logging devices, I strongly believe that the safety benefits of the use of these devices far outweigh the costs. I don't want to see more lives lost due to driver fatigue resulting from log book manipulation. I also believe that with the rapid development of electronic technology, especially in the wireless telecommunications area, we will see strong competition among EOBR manufacturers and reduced costs for these technologies. In addition, the price of these products should go down as the demand increases through regulatory requirement to utilize this equipment.

Senator Alexander and I are not alone in calling for this technology to be more widely used by commercial vehicles. There are a number of Senators, including Senator Lautenberg, who have long been strong proponents of implementing the use of this technology. In addition, multiple Federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations have recognized the benefits of this technology and called for its widespread use.

For example, Mr. Francis France of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance stated at the April 28, 2010, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Oversight of Motor Carrier Safety Efforts that,

All motor vehicles should be equipped with EOBRs to better comply with Hours of Service laws ..... CVSA has been working with a broad partnership to help provide guidance to achieve uniform performance standards for EOBRs.

Similarly, the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the Honorable Deborah Hersman, stated at the same hearing that,

For the past 30 years, the NTSB has advocated the use of onboard data recorders to increase Hours of Service compliance ..... the NTSB recommended that they be required on all commercial vehicles.

During the same hearing, Ms. Jacqueline S. Gillan, with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stated that,

We regard the mandatory, universal installation and use of EOBRs as crucial to stopping the epidemic of hours of service violations that produce fatigued, sleep-deprived commercial drivers ..... at very high risk of serious injury and fatal crashes.

I have also heard from Administrator Ferro of the FMCSA on her thoughts of how EOBRs would enhance compliance and improve highway safety. The FMCSA recently implemented a rule to require that these devices be mandated for truck drivers and trucking companies that have been found to be noncompliant with FMCSA rules. These rules will be effective in June 2012. It is my understanding that the FMCSA is looking to expand these requirements to include more motor carriers, and I support those efforts as they reflect the qualities and intent of this legislation.

Finally, in addition to the support from safety advocates and federal transportation safety officials, I have also heard from a number of Arkansas trucking companies currently utilizing this technology. These companies have experienced reductions in driver fatigue, increases in compliance, and reductions in insurance premiums. The executives of these companies, which include J.B. Hunt and Maverick U.S.A. among others, support the expanded use of these devices to increase compliance, improve highway safety, and level the playing field among the industry. I agree with their views on the importance of widespread utilization of this safety and compliance device.

The Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, if enacted, will require the Department of Transportation to issue regulations within eighteen months from enactment to require commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce to be equipped with electronic onboard recorders for purposes of improving compliance with hours of service regulations. The regulation will apply to commercial motor carriers, commercial motor vehicles, and vehicle operators subject to both hours of service and record of duty status requirements three years after the date of enactment of this Act. This population represents a vast majority of drivers and carriers who operate trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more involved in interstate commerce. It will cover one hundred percent of over-the-road, long-haul truck drivers.

I urge my colleagues in the Senate to recognize the importance of this technology in saving lives on our nation's highways and interstates. I also ask for their support for this legislation and help in moving it to the President as quickly as possible. It is my hope that we move this legislation through the Senate no later than the Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation that the Senate will take up in the near future.

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