The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a federal rule last year that will require the use of electronic logging devices to track truck driver duty status by December 2017. The use of electronic logging devices in place of written logs will increase log accuracy and driver accountability, and will prevent companies from interrupting drivers on mandated rest periods. The goal of the rule is to reduce the rate of commercial truck accidents resulting from overworked and fatigued drivers.
This measure is meant to enforce policies that have been enacted over the years, including a 2011 rule that changed the “hours of service” rules for truck drivers. That rule required a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours on the road and updated how a 34-hour “restart” rest period was used. It effectively reduced the maximum number of hours that commercial drivers spend on the road from 82 to 70 per week.
Why fatigue is so dangerous
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
“Drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving that negatively affects a person’s ability to drive safely. Most people associate impaired driving with alcohol or drugs, but in this situation, sleepiness is the primary cause. Drowsy driving is not just falling asleep at the wheel. Driver alertness, attention, reaction time, judgment and decision-making are all compromised leading to a greater chance of crashing. According to NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study (NMVCCS), drowsy drivers involved in a crash are twice as likely to make performance errors as compared to drivers who are not fatigued. In extreme cases, a drowsy driver may fall asleep at the wheel.”
A 2016 report from the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 10 to 20% of approximately 4,000 fatalities resulting from truck and bus crashes every year involved fatigued drivers. There is no test for drowsiness, so the true number of accidents caused by drowsy driving is unknown; estimates range from 5,000 to 8,000 deaths resulting from around 1.2 million crashes each year, but the numbers could be much higher.
Why has it taken so long enforce mandated rest periods?
The hours of service rules were changed in 2011, but with paper logs and the push for more money, the accuracy of self-reporting was highly suspect. By the time e-logs are required, six years will have elapsed between the reduction of hours on the road and an accurate method of enforcement. The simple explanation is that the National Transportation Safety Board, which studies traffic crashes, programs, and technologies, has no regulatory whatsoever. The board can simply make recommendations to regulatory agencies, which it does often and to seemingly little effect.
To illustrate just how often the agency is ignored, consider this: the NTSB recommended that the Department of Transportation investigate a new collision avoidance technology and determine whether the device could reduce accidents. The recommendation was to make the life-saving technology mandatory in commercial vehicles if it was determined to be effective. That recommendation was made over twenty years ago, in 1995. Last November, the House Rules Committee refused to amend a transportation policy bill to mandate the technology in commercial trucks, despite its growing prevalence in passenger vehicles.
The refusal of government agencies to implement life-saving technologies despite proof of effectiveness verges on criminal. Thousands of lives have been needlessly lost, and families will continue to suffer until these issues are properly addressed. At Crandall & Pera Law, we fight for the rights of accident victims every day. If you or a loved one was injured in a commercial truck crash, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and property damage. The experienced Kentucky and Ohio commercial truck accident attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. To speak to a commercial truck accident attorney in Kentucky, please call 877.651.7764; for our Ohio legal team, please call 877.686.8879, or contact us today for a free consultation.