In August 2010, a Cockeysville, Md. woman was killed and her young son suffered a traumatic brain injury when a triple-trailer truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with their vehicle. Sadly, cases like this are not uncommon: Some 4,000 people are killed in the U.S. every year in commerical trucking accidents. A passenger vehicle stands little chance when involved in a traffic crash with a big rig.
Now, CBS Baltimore reports that in an effort to prevent truck accidents where driver fatigue is a factor, the federal government will require commercial truck drivers to log their their travel time using an electronic device. Since the 1930s, truck drivers have been keeping track of their time in paper log books, which accident investigators and safety advocates say are unreliable and can be easily tampered with.
The new rule, set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), will apply to an estimated 3 million commercial truck and bus drivers. The rule goes into effect in 60 days, and trucking companies will have two years to put the devices into use. Truckers may log their time using smartphones and other devices, providing they comply with the agency’s regulations.
Some trucking organizations object to the rule, claiming that drivers will spend money on electronic devices when paper logs have worked for decades. Others attest that the new devices will not record work done while the trucks are idle. Still other drivers say they are the best judges of how many miles they can put behind the wheel before taking a break. However, safety advocates identify driver fatigue as among the top factors leading to commercial truck accidents. Truck drivers are under intense pressure to move freight across states like Maryland and across the country, with sleep sometimes taking a back seat to company deadlines.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Motor Truck Association told CBS Baltimore that the new rule is only one part of the solution and does not address truck driver fatigue directly. The new rule exempts tow truck drivers, drivers tracking their time with time cards, and those operating vehicles older than model year 2000. Drivers from Canada and Mexico hauling freight in the U.S. will be required to record their travel time electronically.
The FMCSA, which regulates the trucking industry, limits drivers to a maximum 14 hours per shift — during which they can only drive 11 hours – after which they must take a 10-hour break. According to the FMCSA website, an electronic logging device automatically records driving time and monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. The federal agency estimates the new devices will save lives, reduce injuries, and save $1 billion in administrative costs by eliminating paper logs from the system. In addition, the new method will support law enforcement personnel when reviewing driver records during traffic stops and at accident scenes.
New Gov. Rule Requires Truck Drivers to Log Traveling Time
CBSBaltimore.com Dec. 10, 2015
To Fight Fatigue, Truckers Must File Electronically
U.S. News & World Report Dec. 10, 2015
Truck Driver Sentenced to 5 Years in Cockeysville Woman’s Death
Hunt Valley / Cockeysville Patch Jan. 13, 2012
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