Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) aim to prevent drowsy driving truck crashes by limiting total hours worked over the course of the day to 14 and by limiting number of hours driven over the course of a day to 11. FMCSRs also mandate a 30 minute break for most truckers after eight hours of driving, and limit driving over a work week to 70 hours after which time a 34 hour rest break is required.
These rules have been met with resistance from the trucking industry, as reported by the New York Times. Truck drivers successfully fought to get congress to change the way the 34 hour rest break rule worked, eliminating a provision requiring two periods of the rest break to fall between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. Despite the driver resistance, drivers are expected to obey the rules and to track their hours-on-duty so safety regulators can determine if they did follow these rules.
The problem is, the tracking is done in paper logbooks and some truckers just falsify their logs. With so much resistance in the trucking industry to the hours-on-duty regulations, there is substantial concern the rules limiting drive time are not being followed. There is also concern about employers encouraging truckers to drive when they should not as a result of a nationwide trucker shortage. These concerns are being addressed through a new rule requiring electronic logging.
The new rule was reported on by Reuters. The regulation was created in December 2015, but gave truck drivers two years to comply so the mandate is not actually operational until December of 2017. The new rule requires virtually all truck drivers to put a system into their trucks which electronically logs their drive time. Electronic logging is going to eliminate the possibility of truck drivers failing to follow rules or log their hours correctly.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) projects that requiring truckers to use these electronic devices is going to save around 26 lives every single year by preventing drowsy trucking accidents. Stopping sleepy trucks crashes is also projected to stop around 562 injuries. By working more effectively to ensure drivers are in compliance with hours-on-duty rules, the electronic logs will reduce fatigued driving behaviors which Drowsy Driving.org warns can cause effects similar to drunk driving, including delayed reaction times and impaired judgment.
New York Times pointed to many tragic accidents which fatigued truckers had caused, including one fatal crash in which a fatigued truck driver caused 10 deaths after driving for close to 11 hours. Accident investigators determined the 76-year-old truck driver had fallen asleep. Hopefully, this type of tragedy will stop happening once the hours of service are logged electronically and accurately by the new electronic devices which will be required. Regardless of the new mandate, however, it will remain the obligation of truckers to stop and take a rest whenever fatigue begins to impact their driving abilities.