The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – the regulatory agency responsible for truck safety – recently issued a new regulation requiring truck carriers to install electronic log devices (ELDs) in all their vehicles. These ELDs would ensure that drivers take mandatory rest breaks and that they don’t exceed 10 hours of consecutive driving.Here is how the implementation of ELDs could go a long way toward lowering the number of future truck accidents.
What Are Logbooks and How Can They Help Prevent Truck Accidents?
Commercial truck drivers are regulated by what are known as hours-of-service (HOS) rules that stipulate how many hours they can operate their vehicles before they have to take a mandatory rest break.
These rules ensure that truck drivers do not succumb to exhaustion, which can cause them to fall asleep behind the wheel, or to lose focus and concentration as they are driving.
The FMCSA requires all commercial truck drivers to manually track their operating hours and rest hours in a logbook.
For years, this logbook has been the main source of evidence that FMCSA inspectors use to confirm that commercial truck drivers are in compliance with operating regulations.
Problems With Accuracy
But the problem with existing logbooks is that they are quite easy to falsify.
For example, a driver who has not taken the mandatory rest break required by law could still log that rest period in his book without anyone – including his own carrier – being aware that the logbook is inaccurate.
Most truck drivers who are caught tampering with a logbook do so because they cannot afford to take a break due to a traffic delay or dock loading delay that put them behind schedule on a delivery. Employers often put significant pressure on drivers which can be inconsistent with safety, because for many drivers, failing to make a delivery can mean a reduction in pay; especially since the majority of commercial truck drivers are paid per mile and not per hour.
Unfortunately, drivers who consistently maintain inaccurate logbooks are more likely to become involved in truck accidents that can have serious consequences.
Recent Fatal Truck Crash Tied To False Logbooks
That was the case recently when an Illinois-based truck driver by the name of Renato V. Velasquez crashed into two stationary cars that resulted in one death and one injury.
An FMCSA investigation determined that Velasquez had been driving for 26 hours and had only taken a rest break of between three and five hours, which was substantially less than legally mandated.
Velasquez had falsified his logbook to hide the fact that he had not sufficiently rested, and sadly, his exhaustion was tied directly to the truck accident.
As part of its investigation, the FMCSA ordered DND International – the owner of Velasquez’s truck – to be shut down due not only to Velasquez’s inaccurate logbooks, but also because of other violations related to safety protocols.
E-Logbooks Are Tamper Proof
In late 2016, the FMCSA pushed through a new regulation that requires all truck carriers to install ELDs in their vehicles by December 2017.
Per the FMCSA website, “an ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.”
Unlike manual logbooks, ELDs cannot be falsified, so carriers no longer have to worry that the FMCSA will issue fines for non-compliant drivers.
The FMCSA believes that ELDs will force drivers to take their required rest breaks, and lower the incidences of truck accidents caused by drivers who are not well-rested.
But the agency will not be able to compile information about the effectiveness of ELDs until at least 2018 or 2019.
Legal Advocates Who Care
If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident, you need a respected personal injury law firm to stand up for your rights. The attorneys at Miller Weber Kory, LLP have built a team that is dedicated to being your personal advocate. Please call us at 602-648-4045, or toll-free at 855-MWK-HELP, for a free consultation and to discuss your unique needs.
Doug Weber and Jeff Miller have been handling trucking cases for over 30 years. Jeff is a frequent lecturer at trucking liability seminars for other lawyers.