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.
Preventing Driver Fatigue Related 18 Wheeler Crashes
An ELD automatically monitors such aspects of a commercial vehicle as when the engine is started, distance the truck has travelled and the driver’s speed, braking and corrections. The trucking company is able to track the tractor-trailer through a GPS system and determine hours of service of the driver. Should an accident occur, law enforcement could easily access the data to determine if the driver forwent sleep and rest breaks or worked too many hours.
The new rule will protect the public from fatigued drivers and protect drivers themselves. Often, drivers are pressured to violate the law at risk of losing their jobs. They may even be coaxed into keeping a fraudulent set of books. And yet, when a fatigued driver causes an 18-wheeler wreck, the trucking company typically deflects responsibility onto the driver.
With installation of the ELD, an employer can no longer claim it was unaware of the driver’s violations of hours of service laws. Also, an employer cannot threaten the driver to falsify records since the electronic logging device makes this much more difficult. FMCSA also points out that the new law is more convenient for drivers, who no longer have to spend the time filling in handwritten logs.
he FMCSA estimates that mandating ELDs in every tractor-trailer would prevent approximately 20 lives and 434 injuries per year as a result of tired drivers. The decreased incidents of driver fatigue-related accidents would also have an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million, according to the federal regulatory agency.
The benefit of ELDs to the public is clear. Drivers have precise information to gauge when it is time to pull off the road and get some rest. Likewise, police officers have the accurate information they need to enforce hours of service laws and get the drivers off the road before they hurt anyone. And litigation will be streamlined as liability is more easily ascertainable.