Since 1938, truck drivers have been required to keep a paper log of the hours they operate their big rigs and the hours they rest. Safety advocates and accident investigators alike, however, have argued for decades that these logs are often not accurate because it is very easy for truckers to change the information on their logs, falsify logs, or even keep more than one log in order to comply with hours restrictions. Violating hours regulations can result in driver fatigue- a dangerous problem on America’s roadways.
In 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that approximately 3,600 fatalities occurred due to large truck accidents, and it is estimated that four out of five of those fatalities were occupants of passenger vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians. Many of these accidents were due to truck driver fatigue. As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a new regulation that is almost certain to save lives and reduce truck accident injuries.
The new law, which will affect an estimated 3 million truck drivers and bus drivers, will require electronic logging devices in all applicable vehicles within the next two years. These electronic logging devices (ELDs) will significantly reduce dishonest truckers’ ability to tamper with their records. They will monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, location information and miles driven in order to automatically determine driving time. According to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”
The Safety Administration has estimated that in addition to the $1 billion in annual net savings due to paperwork reduction and other expenses, these electronic logging devices will save approximately 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries each year. Additionally, a provision to the new rule will prohibit trucking companies from using the technology to harass drivers.
Despite the numerous benefits that are associated with the new logging law, many industry officials, small trucking companies, owner operators and traditional truckers are expressing opposition to the rule.
- Drivers claim that the electronic logging devices will enable the companies that employ them to pressure those who have not reached their full number of legally allowed hours to continue driving even if they need a short rest. While the accompanying provision is designed to prevent driver harassment from occurring, many drivers feel that it would be ineffective.
- According to the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association, the rule will force truckers and trucking companies to “spend money on an unproven technology that is no more effective than paper logs when it comes to safety and hours-of-service compliance.” The association sued the Safety Administration in an attempt to block the law.
- Some industry officials claim the the electronic logging devices are expensive and unnecessary and that the cost will ultimately be passed on to consumers. In an industry that is already short approximately 50,000 drivers, officials claim the devices will only exacerbate the problem.
- Many small trucking companies claim that the new law will require them to employ more staff, purchase additional trucks and equipment, and hire more drivers in order to achieve the same amount of volume that they are presently achieving. One company estimates an additional $90,000 in costs, not including the installation of the devices.
- Since the work time begins as soon as a trucker logs in, and continues during loading and unloading as well as while truckers wait in long lines to be serviced, truckers feel that the new law will significantly impact the drivers’ actual time on the road. Under current law, drivers are allowed up to 14 hours of on duty time in a single day, and are required to rest for a minimum of 10 hours after their limit has been reached.
Bill Graves, who is president of the American Trucking Associations which represents trucking companies, is in support of using electronic logging devices. He asserts that the new regulation will change the industry for the better.
Under the new rule, trucking companies and independent operators will have up to two years to install acceptable electronic logging devices, and those companies who already employ the use of such devices will have up to four years to install devices that meet the new standards. Additionally, the new regulation allows for the use of smart phones and other electronic devices to record drive times as long as they meet the required technical specifications.
The use of electronic logging devices will basically force truckers to comply with on-duty limitations and required rest periods, enabling motorists who share the roads with the big rigs to rest easier as well.