DriveCam Wins Exemption for Event Recorder Placement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a two-year exemption to DriveCam Inc. that allows video event recorders to be mounted lower on commercial motor vehicles' windshields than Section 393.60(e)(1) of the federal motor carrier safety regulations allows. That section prohibits mounting a device lower than 6 inches below the upper edge of the windshield and also says mounted devices must be outside the area swept by windshield wipers. The exemption began yesterday and will end April 15, 2011.

Only one commenter, the California Highway Patrol, objected. CHP said the windshield visibility requirements in the California Vehicle Code, Section 26708, are based on the preemptive requirements of the federal regulations and can't be changed without a statutory amendment, so installing video event recorders as DriveCam proposed would be prohibited in California. CHP also said DriveCam should have provided safety studies and supporting data to bolster its exemption application.

In response, FMCSA acknowledged no studies or data were provided but said it believes placing event recorders just below the top of the swept area of the windshield wipers "will (1) be well outside the drivers' sight lines, (2) allow the Agency to test, on an interim basis, an innovative safety management control system, and (3) not negatively affect safety." The agency asked any party having information that motor carriers utilizing this exemption are not achieving the requisite level of safety to notify it immediately. "If safety is being compromised, or if the continuation of the exemption is not consistent with 49 U.S.C. 31315(b) and 31136(e), FMCSA will take immediate steps to revoke the exemption," it said in yesterday's notice.

The notice mentions commercial buses, but DriveCam sought and obtained an exemption that applies to all commercial motor vehicles. The company says video event recorders, once integrated into fleets, have been shown to reduce the incidence of preventable vehicle incidents and crashes by 30-40 percent when used with a program to review non-crash events and coach drivers to improve driving behavior. The company, which is based in San Diego, provided its own case studies of commercial fleets to support these claims, according to the notice.

Signed by William A. Quade, FMCSA's acting chief safety officer, the notice says no state may enforce any law or regulation that conflicts with or is inconsistent with the exemption during the two-year term it is in effect.

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