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Major trucking groups square off on black-box recorders

Black box technology has long been used in airplanes to record key data used to determine the causes of flight malfunctions, irregularities and accidents. A new proposal included in a bill currently in front of Congress would utilize the same black boxes to log the driving hours of commercial truck drivers, and the issue has split two major organizations in the trucking industry.

The technology has been proposed in hopes that it would provide greater monitoring of driving hours and adherence to new safety regulations designed to reduce driver fatigue and lower truck accident rates. Commercial truck drivers recently had their weekly driving hours lowered due to research suggesting that too many sleepy drivers were posing a safety hazard on roadways in Ohio and elsewhere.

Currently, drivers are allowed to drive for 70 hours in an eight-day period, followed by a 34-hour off period. These driving hours are still, in most instances, tracked by paper logs filled out by the drivers.

The proposal has drawn the opposition of the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, a 150,000-member group that contends the black box technology would result in an invasion of privacy. By the American Trucking Associations (ATA) welcomes the new technology and hopes it can reduce truck crash rates nationally.

The ATA reports that drivers currently using recording devices experience far fewer hours-of-service violations and have less paperwork hassles to deal with.

Per the terms of the proposal, the data from the recording devices would only be used to manage driving logs and would not be used in crash investigations.

Source: USA TODAY, “‘Black box’ proposal divides truckers,” Larry Copeland, June 12, 2012