The days of truck drivers keeping dual books and manipulating driver fatigue records are numbered because the Department of Transportation (DOT) is mandating the use of electronic logging devices as part of a final rule set for publication on September 30, 2015. This means critical evidence that can establish the fatigue of a commercial driver and indifference by a trucking company can no longer be so easily falsified.
Driver fatigue has long been regarded as one of the most significant threats to public safety posed by large commercial trucks and causes for trucking accidents. Truck drivers are only earning pay when their tractor-trailers are on the road, so truck drivers often consider hours of service (HOS) rules as limitations on their ability to increase their income. Similarly, trucking companies have a financial incentive to consider parked tractor-trailers as lost profits.
HOS rules are designed to keep roadways safer because drivers are required to document their hours driving and on-duty service when not behind the wheel. Drivers are limited in terms of the amount of hours they can drive in a given period of time and subject to mandatory off-duty and break periods. Written log books can be manipulated with false entries. Many commercial driver keep separate log books for their employer and for law enforcement or trucking inspectors. The electronic log books provide a tool to discourage HOS violations and establish driver fatigue as a potential cause of a trucking accident.
Requirements under the New Trucking Regulations
The new regulations include several provisions with the requirements for implementing electronic log records being the most important. The specifics of the new rules include:
- Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are mandatory for any commercial driver required to keep paper logs for 8 or more days out of 30 on the roadways.
- All commercial trucks must be equipped with the devices within two years of the final rule date.
- The device must be integrated with the trucks engine to record power status, miles driven, engine hours, and motions status.
- A location system must be used to impede the ability of the driver or commercial carrier to tamper with the device.
- The new rule also requires a driver to save documents that can be used to verify hours of service records. The driver must keep no more than 10 supporting documents from any of the following categories for every 24 hour period: (1) expense receipts; (2) payroll records or other documents establishing the driver's pay; (3) trip records, dispatch records, or similar documents; and (4) electronic mobile communications through fleet management systems.
Making Florida Roadways Safer for Truck Drivers and the Public
While hard copy written log books relied on the honesty and accuracy of the truck driver and trucking companies, ELDs will make it much more difficult to falsify evidence of compliance with HOS rules. Inadvertent errors and intentional misrepresentations were common under the paper log book system. In fact, these written records were so often altered that they are derisively referred to in the trucking industry as "lie books." While ELDs obviously should make the roads safer for other vehicle occupants and pedestrians, the electronic record system will also protect truck drivers who are compelled to violate HOS rules by trucking companies that impose unrealistic delivery schedules.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligent Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies
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