Small Price to Pay
Some companies and drivers have argued that adopting the technology is too costly. Each device costs about $500 to $1,000. But the FMCSA estimates that the new device will prevent about 1,850 18-wheeler accidents, resulting in at least 26 deaths every year. A few hundred bucks is a small price to pay to get tired drivers off the road and save countless lives.
Some tractor-trailer drivers have also argued that a parked rig earns no money and that they should be able to drive until they feel too tired to keep on going. The problem with this argument is obvious.
Sleepy drivers often don't sense their judgment, reaction time and cognition faltering, much as drunk drivers don't notice their declining state. Through HOS rules, the FMCSA relies on accurate data to determine when a driver is too tired to drive, instead of allowing a compromised driver to make this important judgment call.
Also, the trucking industry has a systemic issue with pressuring drivers to keep going despite their exhaustion. The public has for too long accepted the risks posed by tired drivers because of negligent trucking industry employers.
The driver will now have a valid reason not to meet his employer's demands -- "I am breaking the law if I continue working past what the HOS rules permit." The electronic logbooks put the responsibility squarely on the company to comply with HOS rules or face fines and restrictions on its operations.
Using Technology for Safer Roads and for Accident Recovery in Texas
Berenson Injury Law helps accident victims recover from negligent commercial truck drivers, trucking companies and insurance carriers.
During my 35 years in practice, I have witnessed the many changes in technology that have made our roads safer and that have been useful legal tools.
The digital logbook will compel drivers to comply with HOS regulations, improve enforcement and give me another tool to help injured Texans prove a driver's fatigued state at the time of an accident.
Why are criminal charges so rare when drivers and trucking companies break the law?
As an early Christmas present to Tracy Morgan, the Wal-Mart driver who severely injured the comedian and killed his close friend was indicted yesterday.
The driver was severely sleep-deprived and speeding at the time of the June 7, 2014 crash. Before beginning his long-haul shift, Kevin Roper drove 700 miles from his home in Georgia to report to a Delaware Wal-Mart.
Roper raced along the NJ highway at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone moments before the crash. He also failed to heed multiple warnings about construction lane closures and resulting slow moving traffic ahead. Having been awake for 28 hours, Roper could not react in time to avoid hitting Morgan's limousine.
The devastating 18-wheeler accident did not result from a mistake, bad conditions or any other unavoidable cause. The collision was entirely preventable, except for the criminal conduct of the driver and his employer.
That a driver faces criminal consequences is very rare. People are injured and killed daily by negligent truck drivers who ignore speeding, distracted driving and hours of service laws, but drivers typically get a light reprimand and the company a small fine. Drivers and trucking corporations face no real consequences when the victims are less famous than the well-regarded Tracy Morgan.
We all know what sleep deprivation feels like. Now imagine that, while in that sleepless fog, you are tasked with maneuvering a 50 foot-long, 80,000-pound vehicle at 65 mph.
Truck drivers often travel long distances to complete a delivery. Many may even start their route at a point far from home, meaning a commute of hours to begin a long-haul shift. Trucking companies that are intent on getting goods to their destination on time may push drivers to forgo sleep or look the other way when a driver pops a stimulant to make it through her or his shift.
More than 5,000 people are killed and 110,000 people are injured in commercial vehicle crashes every year. Up to one-half may be attributed to truck driver fatigue, according to a statistics provided in "The Sleep of Long-Haul Drivers" study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Truck drivers are not the only ones at risk of dangerous fatigue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that sleeplessness causes at least 100,000 auto accidents, 71,000 crash injuries and 1,550 traffic deaths every year.
What Happens When a Driver Does Not Sleep Enough?
The human body needs sleep, just like it needs food, water and oxygen. The body may adapt for a while, but eventually the sleep deprivation takes its toll, including:
- Reduced alertness: Losing just 90 minutes of sleep for just a single night can reduce daytime alertness by up to one-third.
- Impaired cognition: The ability to process information effectively declines with extended tiredness.
- Poor memory: Forgetfulness is common in sleep-deprived individuals.
- Distraction and lack of focus: Fatigue reduces concentration and can lead to mind wandering and distraction.
- Falling asleep: In the worse cases, a driver might fall asleep at the wheel. Even nodding off for just a moment can be enough to send the truck careening off the highway or into another vehicle.
Electronic Logging Devices To Improve Compliance with Hours of Service Violations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced last year a proposed rule that mandates electronic logging devices (ELD's) in commercial trucks. The new rule is not scheduled to take effect until two years after the rule is published in the Federal Register on September 30, 2015.
This change is long overdue. Why?
Tractor-trailer drivers are required to maintain written logs of their miles travelled, work and drive hours and rest periods to comply with the hours of service (HOS) regulations. These handwritten logs can easily be tampered with if a driver has violated the HOS rules. In some cases, drivers maintain two sets of records -- one that reflects the real data and a second that is manipulated to demonstrate compliance. The driver sometimes produces the fraudulent set of data after an accident or in connection to an investigation. Proving that the logs have been doctored is one of the most frustrating aspects of handling a case against a commercial carrier and its negligent driver.