The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations limit drivers’ time driving, mandate rest periods and require drivers to maintain accurate logbooks. These rules are intended to keep exhausted drivers off the roads and are critical in personal injury lawsuits.
However the FMCSA investigators and injury lawyers have long been duped by dishonest drivers who kept two logbooks or manipulated the entries. When agents examined the drivers’ logbooks, all seemed to be in order, when in reality tired drivers had extended their work hours and skipped breaks.
This discovery prompted FMCSA to make a long overdue move, requiring most long-haul drivers to convert to computer logbooks by the end of 2017. Drivers are not able to change the data, which is recorded automatically whenever the driver climbs behind the wheel. With access to accurate logbooks, inspectors and attorneys will now be able to increase enforcement of HOS rules.
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.