There are few things more dangerous than a semi-truck with a distracted or fatigued driver behind the wheel. A good example is the June 7, 2014 crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan who was critically injured when a truck driver for Wal-Mart crashed into the rear of a limousine in which Mr. Morgan was a passenger. According to media reports, the truck driver had been working for 24 hours straight when he fell asleep at the wheel and caused this crash.
In an effort to prevent such crashes, state and federal agencies that regulate trucking activities, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), require that truck drivers not drive for more than 11 hours in a 14 hour period and then have at least 10 hours of rest before driving again. The problem has been that while all truck drivers and their employers know these rules, whether the truck driver actually follows them is another matter.
In many cases that I have handled, I’ve obtained a paper record that the truck driver had filled out regarding his “hours of service”, and then compared these to fuel receipts, weight station records, and other similar objective records which document where the truck was at a particular time. In then comparing these computer records, which show where the truck was on a specific day and time to where the truck driver’s paper record says the truck was, there is often a glaring discrepancy. As some truck drivers have told me, at times they keep two sets of logs—one for the state police in case they are stopped, and another to show their employer. As expected, the two sets of logs often have markedly different information.
After much debate and wrangling, it now finally appears that the FMSCA is going to require that all truck drivers maintain an electronic record of how long they have been driving. Such electronic records accurately record the length of time that the truck has been moving, its location, as well as the identity of the driver. These electronic records not only prevent “after the fact” alterations, but also provide a real time record that is wirelessly broadcast to the truck driver’s employer which informs the employer of where the truck is, and how long their employee has been “on duty”. If the truck driver is exceeding his permitted hours of driving, the employer is then required to take that truck driver “out of service” for the required number of rest hours.
While this electronic log book regulation is still being finalized by the FMSCA, a new study definitively proves that electronic logs lead to improved hours of service compliance and crash safety. Specifically, this FMCSA study showed that trucks with electronic log books had a 53% lower rate of “hours of service” violations and a 11.7% lower crash rate as compared to truck drivers who were using old fashioned paper records. Hopefully, these rules requiring all truck drivers to use electronic driving records will soon be in place and our nation’s highways will be safer as a result.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash that was caused by a semi-truck, give my office a call to discuss how we can help. The consultation is always free, and we are never owed a fee unless a successful recovery is made first.