Storing Driving Time Electronically

January 27th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

One way to try to have commercial truck drivers operate safely is to have limits as to how much they can drive. While we want trucks to deliver the goods we want and need, we don’t want fatigued or sleepy drivers causing accidents.

According to national data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2013, 4,186 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. There were 7,950 commercial trucks involved in accidents in Kentucky in 2012, according to the State Police, resulting in 85 fatalities and 1,257 injuries. Many of these fatalities were caused by commercial truck drivers who were impaired by fatigue, illness, alcohol or some other reason.

In a concerted effort to keep fatigued truck drivers off the road, government agencies have promulgated numerous regulations. These federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations currently apply to drivers operating a “property-carrying vehicle”:

  • May work a shift of 14 hours at the most (with no more than 11 hours actually driving, with at least a 30-minute break for a maximum stretch of eight hours driving) before taking ten consecutive hours off.
  • The driver can be on duty a maximum of 60 hours in seven days if his or her employer doesn’t operate every day of the week.
  • If the employer operates every day, the maximum increases to 70 hours over eight consecutive days.
  • For either situation, drivers can “restart” the seven- or eight-day period by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off, including two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m, but only if 168 hours (seven days) have passed since the last “restart” began.

Drivers must keep track of their driving, break and off hours, with most using paper log books. As with many things written on paper, this will be replaced by December 18, 2017, with electronic storage of driving information due to a final rule published in the Federal Register of regulations by the FMCSA in December, according to BLR. The rule requires the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) for those who need to document their hours of service. The agency estimates about three million drivers will be impacted.

The goals of mandating these devices include:

  • Reduction of paperwork for drivers and motor carriers
  • More accurate accounts of when a driver is and isn’t driving
  • Preventing motor carriers from pressuring drivers to falsify log books so it appears they are complying with the law while driving too many hours. Drivers won’t input information into the devices — the electronic logs will be wired to the truck’s engine.

The agency has a number of requirements relating to the ELDs and their use, including:

  • Performance and design standards
  • HOS supporting documents that will result in paperwork reductions
  • Measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs. The final rule prohibits driver harassment, with violations potentially resulting in civil penalties, which is defined as “an action by a motor carrier toward a driver employed by the motor carrier . . . involving the use of information available to the motor carrier through an ELD . . . that the motor carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating (limitations on working hours).”

Any reasonable measure that keeps commercial drivers and their fellow motorists on the road safer should be used given how catastrophic injuries can be when a car is involved in an accident with a tractor trailer. If you or a loved one has been injured in such an accident in Kentucky, call the Julie Butcher Law Office at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form to talk about your case and your legal options.