In an effort to improve roadway safety, in December 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) unveiled its newest initiative – mandated, automated logging technology. The Final Rule will require the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) in all commercial trucks and buses by 2017. According to government officials, the use of ELDs has been proven to not only reduce instances of driver fatigue, but also provides law enforcement personnel with a quick and easy way to spot violators of federal mandatory break rules.
The Final Rule is facing stiff opposition from trade groups and privacy advocates. Shortly after the initiative was announced, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed a petition for review with the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Opponents maintain in their lawsuit that the Final Rule will intrude upon the rights of professional truck and bus drivers, affording law enforcement a glimpse at conduct far beyond that of driver fatigue. In response, the FMSCA says it will strictly prohibit the harassment of commercial drivers based upon information gleaned from the use of ELDs.
Despite those concerns, drowsy driving is an undeniable problem which must be addressed. The NHTSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study estimated that commercial trucker fatigue contributed to 13% of all crashes involving a commercial motor vehicle over a 33-month period. Moreover, according to the FMSCA, driver fatigue is a leading factor in the 4,000 fatal large truck crashes that occur each year.
The FMCSA passed hours of service rules in 2011 that required drivers to take a 30-minute rest during the first eight hours of a shift and also restricted drivers from using the 34-hour rest period to restart their work week more than once in seven days. Moreover, the so-called “restart” rule mandated that drivers include two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. during their restart period. Although the restart rule was later suspended by Congress, the 30-minute rest rule remains in effect. However, with many companies and drivers opting to maintain a written log of their activities, enforcement has sometimes been a challenge. According to the FMCSA, the use of ELDs – which record driving time, engine hours, miles driven, vehicle movement and vehicle location – will simplify the process for all involved.
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