After a decade-long fight, safety advocates are about to win a major battle with the federal government - set to mandate the use of electronic data recorders for commercial truck drivers, effective April 1.
These devices are designed to replace the paper log books used to track Hours-of-Service compliance by truck drivers for decades. The log books were notorious for being readily falsifiable by dishonest companies seeking to allow truckers to drive more often than is permitted under federal safety regulations.
Hours-of-Service Compliance Enforced by Electronic Logs
Far too many truck accidents in Houston are caused by fatigued drivers. In fact, it is believed to be the leading cause of truck accidents nationwide.
Recently, our injury lawyers have blogged about the critical trucker shortage, and an atmosphere of deregulation in Washington, which is likely to increase the risks to all motorists forced to share the road with these tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted the new regulations in December but gave truckers until April 1 to comply.
While federal Hours-of-Service regulations were updated several years ago, paper log books in use since the 1930s allowed drivers to skirt the rules by self-reporting compliance. The rules limit drivers to 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel after a 10-hour break and to no more than 14 hours in any 24-hour period. In 2013, the regulations reduced total allowable time on the road from 82 hours to 70 hours per week.
Liability for Texas Trucking Accidents Caused by Fatigued Drivers
From Dec. 18, when the mandate took effect, until Jan. 26, enforcement officers in 47 states have conducted 12,524 ELD inspections for commercial trucks, resulting in 12,776 violations under 395.22A.
The atmosphere of deregulation in Washington has allowed truckers to stay on the road between the rules' enactment in December 18 and the April 1 deadline. Some stakeholders, including the agricultural industry and UPS, have received extensions or partial exemption from the rules.
The new electronic logs will undoubtedly be a resource to Texas injury lawyers who know how to request and review such information in determining all of the potential causes of a serious or fatal truck accident.
In addition to hours-of-service compliance, electronic logging devices will track a number of safety measurements, as well as a truck's route and location. It will also allow fleet managers to monitor for unsafe and inefficient driving, store vehicle inspection data, and monitor fuel consumption and tire pressure.
However, Overdrive magazine is reporting Texas is among the states giving drivers even more time to comply. Texas truckers have until December 19, 2019 to begin using the devices. So, while drivers in Texas may be cited for non-compliance with the federal regulations after the April 1 deadline, they likely will not be removed from Texas roads until after state regulations begin.
Texas rules will also provide an exemption for those hauling agricultural products within a 150-mile radius of the point of origin.
While this is one regulation that appears ready to make it into law, a number of other initiatives, including speed limiters for large trucks and side-underside guards, have yet to make it through the legislative process.
In the event of a crash involving a large commercial vehicle, contact an experienced truck accident attorney at the Law Offices of Gene S. Hagood.