Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law
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Electronic logging may reduce exhausted commercial driving

For the people who drive commercial trucks and transport goods and materials all over this country, there is always a deadline to worry about. Professional truck drivers must follow strict schedules to ensure their cargo reaches its destination on time. In the case of perishable items, such as produce, milk or even beer, those deadlines are even more critical.

Trucking companies try to encourage drivers to get every shipment where it needs to be on time. They may do this in a number of ways, such as writing up or penalizing those who don't arrive on time or offering bonuses for those who consistently deliver as scheduled. That, in turn, could create an incentive for drivers to speed or violate the limits on how long they can legally drive.

Exhausted drivers are dangerous drivers, so the federal government limits how long commercial drivers can operate a vehicle. Drivers keep log books to record their hours, but this system has been gamed and abused by individuals and companies for many years. New electronic logging will prevent drivers from routinely omitting time, changing records or otherwise inaccurately reflecting their work hours.

Exhausted truck drivers are a serious concern

Roughly 12 percent of fatal crashes caused by commercial truck drivers are the result of "nonperformance." That can include falling asleep or being so tired that the driver makes a mistake or is too slow to react to sudden changes on the road. With as many as one of out 10 crashes caused by commercial drivers relating to fatigue or nonperformance, it makes sense that the government has taken steps to reduce the potential risk.

Creating Hours of Service rules allowed the government to limit, but not eliminate, exhausted commercial drivers on the road. Commercial cargo drivers can only drive so long before they must take federally mandated rest periods. They track their time driving and resting in special log books, which can provide evidence in the event of a crash. However, written and self-maintained logs have proven to be too simple to falsify. Therefore, as of April 1, 2018, federal requirements for electronic logging devices (ELDs) have taken effect.

Electronic logs are harder to adjust or change

The use of ELDs and their federal requirement has been controversial. Unsurprisingly, people from the trucking industry are angry and pushing back against the required upgrade. They claim these systems will increase costs to trucking companies and consumers. However, ELDs appear to be here to stay.

An ELD can show where a truck was (these devices log GPS positioning as well), how long it drove and how long the driver's most recent break was. In other words, after some time, the records of these devices will show patterns of exhausted driving with individual drivers and within companies that encourage truckers to bend or break the Hours of Service rules. That can protect people on the road from exhausted truckers and give those hurt by a tired commercial driver more evidence for building a case for compensation.

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