Mandated electronic logging devices that record daily driving time for truckers are expected to reduce accidents and injuries by preventing truck driver fatigue on the road.
Federal Safety Regulations
To reduce driver fatigue and trucking accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has mandated that all commercial trucking companies install electronic logging devices in company trucks by the end of 2017. Trucking companies and owner/drivers currently using paper logs will have until December 2019 to install Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in their vehicles. Logs will record driving and rest times required for truck drivers without allowing any possible driver alterations, which frequently occurred with previous paper logs.
Federal regulators have expressed safety concerns related to paper logs for years. The U.S. Department of Transportation alleges many incidences of falsified or altered paper logs by truck drivers, especially following truck-involved accidents. Federal regulators claim that paper logs are often altered after an accident to cover up a truck driver’s violation of mandated federal safety rules for driving schedules.
Truck drivers have kept paper logs since the 1930s, but regulators argue that up to 20 percent of drivers falsify paper logs to record additional hours that provide extra pay. In 2017, state law enforcement officers put more than 30,000 truck drivers out of service for falsifying their logs. The FMCSA says this is the highest number yet, and numbers only reflect drivers who were actually caught.
Many truckers are unhappy with new electronic logging devices and safety regulations. With shippers who are desperate to cut costs, drivers are concerned that ELDs will shorten their driving time and reduce their pay. Truck drivers are not paid by the hour, they are paid to deliver cargo on time. Drivers are afraid that they will be forced to pull over for a 10-hour rest break in the middle of an important run which may impact their paycheck.
Federal regulators and the trucking industry have argued in favor of electronic logging devices in commercial trucks for many years, stating that electronic logs would automatically track a truck’s movements without the driver’s ability to alter log entries. Safety officials state that electronic logs will keep truck drivers honest about driving times, rest times, and trip details and ensure compliance with federal trucking regulations. They also hope to prevent false accident and injury claims seen by a truck accident lawyer.
The FMCSA states that new electronic logging devices will improve the quality of hours-of-service data and help reduce accidents by fatigued drivers, a growing problem for truck drivers around the country. Officials state that electronic logs provide safety provisions for truck drivers:
- Protects drivers’ privacy by making ELD records available only to law enforcement and FMCSA officials during compliance reviews, roadside inspections, and post-crash investigations.
- Protects drivers from harassment and complaints, and provides an $11,000 maximum civil penalty for any motor carrier that engages in truck driver harassment.
- Increases efficiency for law enforcement and inspectors who review ELD records.
New electronic logging devices are expected to prevent hundreds of serious injuries and fatalities from truck-involved collisions each year. The reduction of such injuries will create an annual safety benefit of $395 million for the trucking industry.
Trucking Accidents On the Rise
According to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), serious injuries and fatalities from trucking accidents are rising across the country. In 2014, truck-involved collisions accounted for more than 3,600 deaths. Although large, commercial trucks are involved in fewer collisions per mile than passenger vehicles, they account for one in eight of all fatal motor vehicle accidents on U.S. roads and highways. Passenger vehicles are especially vulnerable to large trucks with dangerous blind spots, greater ground clearance, and weight that’s often 30 times more than passenger vehicles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, occupants in passenger vehicles account for most fatalities in large truck crashes. Fatality statistics related to truck-involved collisions show:
- Occupants in passenger vehicles account for 68 percent of deaths
- Truck drivers or occupants account for 16 percent of deaths
- Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians account for 15 percent of deaths
- Large tractor-trailers cause 72 percent of truck-related deaths
- Single-unit trucks cause 28 percent of truck-related deaths
- Over 50 percent of fatal collisions occur on roads other than major freeways and interstates
Driver fatigue is a major safety concern within the trucking industry. Although it’s difficult to prove that driver fatigue is responsible for a trucking accident, it’s suspected that fatigue plays a major role in at least 50 percent of reported truck-involved collisions. Safety officials are hopeful that new electronic logging devices will significantly reduce truck driver fatigue and related trucking accidents around the country.