New federal trucking regulations could reduce the number of fatigued truck drivers and trucking accidents in New York City. Since 1938, interstate truck drivers have been required to log their hours manually in a logbook. This changed recently, when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) updated the rules.
Truck accident experts have long argued that manual record keeping is too easy to alter or fake. Drivers were able to evade the rules that regulated how long they could be behind the wheel without a rest break. According to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”
In the past, owner-operators and small fleet owners have opposed electronic logging of driving time. Their opposition was based on the assumption that they would be pressured to keep driving longer hours when hiring companies are able to access the records and see when they rest, even when the rules allow them to continue driving. The electronic devices monitor engine time, movement of the truck, number of miles driven and where a truck is located.
In addition to preventing accidents, the new requirement will save money, possibly as much as $1 billion annually because of reduced paperwork. The safety benefits are considerable, according to the FMCSA, which says the new equipment will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries annually.
The new rule applies to Canadian and Mexican drivers who operate in the U.S. It exempts truck drivers and bus drivers of vehicles built before 2000. It also includes provisions to protect drivers from harassment because of information found on the electronic devices.
The new rule also defines how the devices should be designed and installed.
Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, embraced the new rule, saying , “This regulation will change the trucking industry for the better forever.” The association represents trucking companies.
The new rule goes into effect within 60 days, but companies have two years after that time to begin using the new devices. If companies have already installed electronic devices that do not meet the new standards, they have up to four years to upgrade.
This change has been a long time coming. Congress ordered the Department of Transportation to establish new safety regulations that included some level of electronic monitoring, but nothing happened until a federal appeals court ordered the agency to take action in 2004. The agency’s first effort was overturned by another appeals court in 2011. After that setback, Congress ordered the agency to develop new standards by Oct. 1, 2013. That deadline was also missed, but it appears that barring additional rulings by the courts, the current rule will stay in place.