New Truck Accident Laws: Electronic On-Board Records

Driver fatigue is a frequent cause of truck accidents. How frequent is a matter of opinion.

But more facts are on the way to creating informed opinions thanks to the Federal Motor Safety Administration’s new Compliance Safety Accountability Program. Safety reporting is the defining feature of this program. One of my favorite aspects truckaccidentis the use of electronic on-board recovery. The new rule requires trucking companies who have violation rates of 10% or higher, with reference to discrepancies in time spent on the road and time recorded in their logs, to install recorders in all of their vehicles.

Clearly, the home run play would be to require electronic trucking logs in every vehicle. The problem of falsifying trucking logs has been well-known by truck accident lawyers for years. But proof is hard to come by. Unfortunately, transportation has not bounced back like the rest of the economy yet and there is little inertia in the Obama administration to take any action to increase transportation costs.

But maybe this lever will help. Trucking companies are now going to bring new pressure to bear on their drivers to keep accurate logs. Does this mean logs cannot be falsified? No. So this is not going to provide truck accident lawyers looking for harder evidence a ton of new opportunity to prove the driver fatigue case. In fact, it might just make our jobs more complicated because we all need to better understand the new electronic reports (and how they too can be altered). But while maybe not providing a boon to attorneys, this new rule might do an even better thing: prevent cases from getting to us in the first place.

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  • According to the FMCSA, driver fatigue is a factor in 3% of truck incidents. In truck vs. auto collisions, the auto driver is at fault 78% of the time.

    We can agree that one fatigue related wreck is too many but, overall, it is rare by anyone’s definition.

    With or without EOBRs, proving log falsification is easy, if you know where to look. And, with or without EOBRs, it will continue. Despite the trucking industries’ claims that they insist on the driver complying with the hours of service regulations, the truth is that if the driver logs all of the time spent waiting to load or unload, or getting repairs done, then their trucks will not be as productive and will cost them money. Therefore, they ignore it.

    Neither lawmakers nor the FMCSA, and certainly not the companies themselves, are seriously interested in solving the root problem of fatigued driving. If they were, they would eliminate pay-per-mile compensation AND the truck driver exemption to the FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT of 1938.

    Truck drivers only get paid when the wheels roll. Period. Remove the incentive to falsify and you solve all the fatigue related issues.

    Michael McClelland
    The Professional Driver Alliance

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