Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to follow many Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Among the safety regulations are rules related to drowsy driving. Drowsy Driving.org warns fatigue causes impaired judgement, delayed reaction time, and other similar effects to drunk driving. Clearly, for truckers commanding large vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds, driver fatigue is unacceptably dangerous. As a result, limits exist on the total hours worked daily, the total hours driven daily, the hours of driving allowed before a break, and the hours of driving allowed over a seven or eight day period.
While these laws are strict, enforcement can be difficult. Drivers are relied upon to track their own hours, and they do so in paper logs tracking hours on duty. The problem comes when truckers intentionally or inadvertently fail to record their hours properly.
This can result in hours of service rules being violated, which significantly increase the risk of drowsy driving truck accidents. Unfortunately, in some cases, trucking companies even place overt or implicit pressure on truckers to falsify hours-on-duty logs as these trucking companies grapple with a trucker shortage throughout the United States.
In order to help solve the problem of drowsy driving due to a failure to follow hours of service rules, new rules were promulgated in December of 2015 and go into effect in December 2017. Reuters reports on the new rules, which mandate virtually all truck drivers install electronic logging devices in their vehicle. These electronic logging devices will automate the process of tracking hours on duty and it will no longer be possible to record incorrect information in order to drive longer than is legally allowed.
There are some concerns within the trucking industry about the impact of this requirement on smaller trucking companies. Many large trucking companies already have electronic logging devices in place, but smaller trucking companies could face a financial burden that makes continued operations difficult or impossible. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has suggested as much as $1 billion could be saved across the trucking industry in decreased paperwork costs.
Most importantly, however, the new electronic logging requirement is expected to prevent injuries and to save lives. Estimates suggest 26 fewer people will die in trucking accidents and 562 fewer people will suffer injury in collisions with trucks due to the enhanced prevention of drowsy driving accidents which goes along with the new electronic logging mandate.
There is still more than a year until this mandate goes into effect. Regardless of whether a trucker has an electronic logging device in his car or not, the truck driver is still responsible for following hours-of-service rules. Truckers should also make a commitment to stop driving and rest or take a break when feeling fatigued, regardless of whether they have driven their maximum number of hours or not.