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Federal Regulations Now Require Electronic Logs in Commercial Vehicles

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A change in the federal rules governing commercial drivers of trucks and buses will require that drivers use electronic, rather than paper, logs to track their hours worked and miles driven, and a recent Greyhound Bus crash highlights the reason this change is long overdue.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the governmental body which oversees commercial truck and bus drivers. The FMCSA has had a rule since 1938 requiring that commercial drivers track the number of hours worked and miles driven each day, and since 1938, drivers have been required only to create a paper record of these hours worked. These records are an important way to ensure that drivers comply with the FMCSA’s hours of service rules, mandating that drivers limit the number of hours they spend behind the wheel to 11 during any given 24-hour period. These rules are designed to keep fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel of large and potentially dangerous vehicles, which could cause a massive amount of destruction if the driver should fall asleep or drive under the influence of unsafe stimulants.

Despite massive advances in technology and the availability of electronic means of tracking miles driven by commercial drivers, FMCSA regulations still permitted the use of paper logs. However, drivers under pressure to meet high mileage demands from carrier companies could easily falsify paper logs, and were often under pressure to do so, until now. The electronic log rule, which goes into effect in February of 2016, will require commercial drivers to use a means of tracking hours worked and miles driven which connects directly to the truck’s on-board computer, so that the log can begin to track this information as soon as a driver begins working. Electronic logging devices will also be required to note the driver’s GPS location for additional verifiability of the log’s entries, as well as the driver’s speed, and the length and timing of breaks taken throughout the day.

A bus accident which occurred earlier this month is a tragic example of why accurate driving logs are important. A Greyhound Bus which left Los Angeles at 11:30 pm crashed after driving north through the night, killing two passengers and injuring 13. The driver had complained of fatigue, and had drunk a cup of coffee at an earlier stop, though he claims not to have been asleep when the crash occurred. Passengers witnessed the driver nodding off and weaving somewhat between lanes prior to the stop. Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, described the state of fatigue among bus drivers as being “at a crisis level,” with most bus drivers feeling compelled to lie in driver logs about how much rest they had received between shifts. Hopefully, an additional hurdle to falsifying driver logs will result in greater safety for bus passengers and other drivers alike.

If you have been injured in a truck or bus accident in Alabama, contact the personal injury of McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP at 334-262-1911.