In an effort to make America's roads safer and provide accurate information after an accident, commercial truck drivers will soon be required to install electronic logging devices which keep track of their speed, hours of service and other critical information.
"This is a win for all motorists on our nation's roadways," Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator T. F. Scott Darling III said in a FMCSA statement announcing the new regulations. "Employing technology to ensure that commercial drivers comply with federal hours-of-service rules will prevent crashes and save lives."
Under the new rules, trucking companies have until December 2017 to install ELDs in every new commercial truck, according to a recent news article published in The Virginian Pilot. Many existing trucks already use older automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRD), according to the FMCSA. These older devices are "grandfathered" for a limited time, but carriers will be required to replace them with ELDs compliant with the new regulations by December 2019.
Information tracked by ELD in commercial trucks
- Speed of vehicle
- Miles driven
- Hours of service
- Engine hours
- Location information
- Rapid decrease or increase in speed
Currently, truck drivers can use paper logs to keep track of much of this information. But often, there's no way to verify whether the information contained in such logs accurately reflects what actually happened on the road.
Indeed, some truck drivers falsify their logs in an effort to conceal Hours of Service (HOS) violations and other infractions. A recent example pertains to a fatal truck accident in August on Interstate 80 in LaSalle County, Illinois. One of the trucking companies involved in the 5-vehicle crash, which killed three people, had previously been cited for underreporting a driver's hours of service, according to ABC 7 News in Chicago.
HOS rules apply to drivers operating vehicles:
- Weighing more than 10,001 pounds
- Designed to transport more than 9 people for compensation
- Designed to transport more than 16 people not for compensation
Commercial truck drivers sometimes enter false information in paper logs because they work longer hours than allowed by law. Some drivers voluntarily violate such laws in order to work longer hours and make more money. Other drivers are pressured to work longer hours by employers more focused on profits than worker safety.
Federal Hours of Service Regulations for commercial truck drivers
- 11-hour driving limit after 10 hours off duty
- 14-hour working limit after 10 hours off duty
- Mandatory 30-minute rest breaks every 8 hours
HOS rules exist since tired truck drivers may fall asleep at the wheel and cause serious truck accidents involving other vehicles. Often, truckers who fall asleep at the wheel don't hit the brakes before impact, which means they hit a smaller vehicle at full speed. And since a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh more than 80,000 pounds, the force of the impact can cause serious damage to smaller vehicles - and severe or fatal injuries to the people in those vehicles.
Truck accidents in Illinois a serious problem
Fatal truck accidents are a serious problem in Illinois, according to ABC 7 News' investigation of the August I-80 truck accident in LaSalle County. In the past 5 years, there have been nearly 600 fatalities in Illinois due to accidents involving large commercial trucks.