On Aug. 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a proposed rule to eliminate daily paperwork requirements for truck drivers.
The proposed rule is estimated to save $1.7 billion per year while still maintaining high safety standards for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This proposal came as a result of the 2012 initiative to find ways to cut waste and red tape in federal regulatory programs.
Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs)
Current federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to inspect their vehicles before and after every trip. Drivers are required to file a report after each inspection, regardless of whether they find any defects or deficiencies with the vehicle. The DOT estimates that only about 5 percent of the reports filed identify any CMV defects, making the other 95 percent no-defect DVIRs.The proposed rule would eliminate the requirement to file no-defect DVIRs. By eliminating this requirement, the proposed rule reduces a substantial time and paperwork burden. It is estimated that CMV drivers spend approximately 47.2 million hours each year completing no-defect DVIRs. The monetary value of this time is estimated at close to $1.7 billion per year.
Proposed Exception for Passenger-Carrying CMVs
The proposal, as it currently stands, would apply to drivers operating in interstate commerce (49 CFR 396.11), but excludes drivers of certain passenger-carrying CMVs. The DOT has presented three reasons for this exception:
- Daily preparation of DVIRs enforces the importance of reporting maintenance issues for drivers who must interact with their passengers before, during and after a trip. Drivers who interact frequently with their passengers may be more likely to overlook vehicle defects and deficiencies simply because of the distracting nature of the varying needs of their passengers;
- The potential for significant numbers of malfunction-induced injuries and fatalities is 40 percent higher for passenger-carrying CMVs than for other CMVs; and
- Because of their cargo, passenger-carrying CMV drivers have a heightened responsibility for the operation and maintenance of their vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board has found that defects and deficiencies in CMVs were a root cause of several crashes and accounted for 20 percent of fatalities in these crashes.
Commitment to Vehicle Safety
The DOT has stated that vehicle safety is still a top priority. Every CMV is still required to undergo a thorough annual safety inspection by a certified commercial vehicle mechanic. In addition, the DOT will continue its vehicle inspection program, where state and federal inspectors will select and examine commercial trucks unannounced and at random at terminals, weigh stations, truck stops and destinations. The DOT estimates that approximately 3.5 million inspections were conducted in 2012.Motor carriers must still conduct systematic CMV inspection, repair and maintenance programs, maintain records of the measures they take to prevent or reduce the risk of mechanical problems while the vehicle is in operation and inspect DVIRs that list defects or deficiencies and correct any issues before vehicles are dispatched again.CMV drivers are still required to inspect their vehicles before and after a trip and complete and file a DVIR if they discover any defects or deficiencies in their CMVs.
Request for Comments
The DOT is accepting comments on the proposed rule until Oct. 7, 2013. At this time, the DOT is seeking information, feedback, data and comments from the industry on the following:
- The procedures motor carriers and drivers use for filing and maintaining DVIRs (including record retention, separation of defect and no-defect reports and special procedures for no-defect reports);
- Examples of specific incidents where handling a large number of no-defect DVIRs has interfered with the handling of defect DVIRs (including the consequences and effects);
- The procedures used for completing and filing electronic DVIRs (including whether defect and no-defect reports are separated and the percentage of paper versus electronic reports);
- The industry’s perception of the percentage of no-defect DVIRs and a description of the method used to come to that percentage;
- Whether the DOT should preserve an inspection list in § 392.7 to assist drivers in conducting pre-trip inspections or whether drivers should be sufficiently knowledgeable and experienced at conducting pre-trip inspections that they would not have to rely on a regulation to prescribe the essential vehicle components and systems that should be checked before each trip;
- The extent to which carriers and drivers rely on the list in 49 CFR § 392.7 (Equipment, Inspection and Use);
- The extent to which carries and drivers rely upon the list in 49 CFR § 396.11 (Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports);
- Whether the DOT should extend the proposed rule to commercial passenger vehicles (with a description of why or why not) and whether the DOT’s reasons for an exception are justified;
- The percentage of defect DVIRs currently prepared by commercial passenger vehicles; and
- The percentage of time that drivers of commercial passenger vehicles find that interacting with passengers at the end of the day makes it difficult to accurately recall any vehicle defects and deficiencies observed or reported during the day.
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