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FMCSA moves to electronic tracking of driver hours

Buses or semi-tractor trailers with a drowsy or sleeping driver behind the wheel can cause catastrophic accidents, and federal regulations are in place to protect road users in Louisiana and around the country by limiting the number of hours that drivers may work without resting. The hours worked by drivers have generally been kept on paper records, but a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule announced by the agency in December 2015 will require truck owners to install sophisticated electronic tracking devices within two years.

The use of paper records to track driver hours has been widely criticized by both safety advocates and commercial vehicle accident investigators. They say that the logs are not always completed properly and can easily be manipulated following an accident to conceal evidence that federal rules have been violated. The electronic devices mandated by the FMCSA regulation will keep track of how long a driver has spent behind the wheel by measuring the distance commercial vehicles travel and the amount of time that their engines are in use.

The FMCSA says that the new rule could save 26 lives and about $1 billion each year, but many truck owners and drivers oppose the measure. They claim that customers will have access to the information recorded and may use it to pressure truck operators to keep their vehicles moving even when it is not safe to do so. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed a lawsuit that seeks to block the new regulation.

Those injured in truck accidents may suffer life-changing injuries, but demonstrating that truck drivers were sleeping or fatigued can sometimes be challenging for personal injury attorneys pursuing civil remedies on their behalf. Regulations requiring more sophisticated recording of vehicle movements and driver behavior should be welcomed by road users, and this information could be used to establish liability in lawsuits brought against negligent truck drivers or non-compliant trucking companies.

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