An Important Change in Federal Laws for Truckers

Years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began debating the merits of requiring that commercial truck and bus drivers begin to use electronic logging devices in their vehicles, rather than paper logs. After years of debate, the law will finally reflect currently-available technology. As of February of this year, commercial long-haul bus and truck drivers will be required to use electronic logging devices to track their shifts.

Beginning in 1938, commercial drivers have been instructed by FMCSA regulations to keep a written log that tracked how many hours those drivers had been behind the wheel, how many miles they had driven, and the length and timing of their breaks. Despite the subsequent advances in technology, the rules remained stuck in the 30s, until the recent change. At first glance, the daily driving records for long-haul truck and bus drivers may seem like no more than ordinary paperwork. However, these logs play an important role in roadway safety. Drivers are required to adhere to FMCSA’s hours of service rules, which limit drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle during a 24-hour period, with an additional three working hours that may be spent loading, unloading, or maintaining their trucks. The remaining ten hours are intended to be taken as rest so drivers are mentally alert and are able to react appropriately while behind the wheel. As demand on the transportation and shipping industry increases, carrier companies need their drivers to make as much progress as possible during the workday, and drivers may often feel pressured to go over the legally-permitted limit on hours spent driving. Paper logs can be easy to falsify, which can result in drivers who are no longer functioning at full mental capacity to stay on the road, posing a danger to other vehicles. These logs must regularly be turned over to the FMCSA for review, but logs that are improperly manipulated do not accurately convey the problem of fatigued, overworked drivers.

Under the new laws, records created by electronic logging devices will be difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate. The devices are required to connect to a vehicle’s on-board computer and start logging immediately upon the beginning of a driver’s shift. The devices will be required to record not only the number of miles traveled over the course of the day, but also the truck’s GPS location, as an additional way to verify the report. The log will also note the driver’s speed, and the time and length of breaks. The device must be capable of transmitting data wirelessly, over Bluetooth, or via USB, and to present its data in a way that is readable by law enforcement officers who may pull over drivers on suspicion of driving while excessively fatigued or under the influence of a substance. These devices should bring about important changes in the trucking industry, causing unsafely-fatigued drivers to take the rest they require to be safe drivers.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident in Connecticut, contact the experienced New Britain and Milford truck accident attorneys at the Apex Law Firm for a consultation on your claims, at 203-877-4141 in New Haven County or (860) 900-0900 in Hartford County.