Agency Calls for Electronic Logging of Truckers’ Hours
Federal traffic safety officials have sought for years to reduce truck accidents by monitoring the hours that commercial drivers are at the wheel. Long days and nights on the road take a toll on commercial drivers, and drowsy driving is a serious public health concern. In mid-March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a proposed rule that would require interstate truck and bus drivers to use electronic logging devices.
The proposed rule may take a long time to implement. One estimate is that it would not be in place until 2015 and not be enforced until 2017. However, truckers, bus drivers, fleet managers and other industry advocates are not likely to accept the plan without a fight. In 2011, a federal appeals court decided that electronic hours-of-service monitoring would give law enforcement too much power to harass commercial drivers and struck down a measure requiring the devices for carriers that had significant hours-of-service violations.
The proposed rule is ruffling feathers throughout the commercial carrier industry. Many in the trucking industry maintain that car drivers are most often at fault in fatal or serious collisions involving cars and trucks.
Overall, errors by truck drivers cause most trucking accidents. According to the FMCSA, in accidents caused by driver error:
- 44% of truckers were using over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
- 23% of truck drivers were driving too fast for conditions.
- 18% of commercial drivers were fatigued at the time of the accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has measures in place to address the problem of commercial drivers who might nod off or are otherwise too unhealthy to drive safely. The approximately 7 million commercial truckers who work on America’s roads are at risk for health problems that can lead to crashes.
Some FMCSA requirements include:
- Fitness guidelines for fleet managers and commercial drivers.
- A biannual DOT exam that requires drivers to demonstrate that they are sufficiently trained, experienced and healthy.
- Monitoring of individuals and companies that do commercial driver health assessments and certifications.
Hours-of-service regulations limit the time drivers can remain behind the wheel and require rest periods at certain intervals. But the rules can be difficult to enforce. Many commercial truck fleets use self-reported paper log books to track the number of hours that drivers are on the road. Electronic monitoring would not remove logging requirements that are currently in place, but they might help catch truckers who falsify hours-of-service records. The FMCSA hopes to implement a system that would let police receive electronic hours-of-service records during roadside safety stops and inspections.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 102,000 people were injured and almost 4,000 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2012. From 2011 to 2012, deaths caused by large truck crashes rose 4%. Electronic logging devices and hours-of-service rules can help prevent fatalities caused by careless, drowsy or incautious truck drivers.
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