New rules about how commercial bus and truck drivers record their hours spent on the road released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mark the entry of regulations into the digital age. In an effort to control trucker fatigue, authorities have required drivers in Arkansas and elsewhere to maintain paper logs of their hours behind the wheel since the 1930s. Safety advocates, however, have long criticized the failings of paper records, claiming they are easy to alter if an accident investigation takes place.
The new regulations, scheduled to take effect in February 2016, will impact approximately 3 million commercial drivers. With some exceptions, trucking companies will have two years to install electronic devices that automatically record hours of driving operation. The secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation said that the digital records will enable roadside investigators to uncover federal violations that endanger motorists.
Estimates from the FMCSA predict that 26 fatalities and 562 injuries every year could be prevented by reducing the incidence of driver fatigue. Improvements in record keeping for truckers have been delayed for years. Congress originally ordered the Department of Transportation in 1995 to impose electronic logs. The department did not attempt to change regulations until a federal appeals court decision in 2004 required the agency to act.
Federal trucking regulations aim to limit the possibility of truck driver fatigue by restricting the hours they can drive. Currently, the industry often pushes operators to drive for long hours to meet deadlines. When drivers get tired, multi-vehicle crashes sometimes result. A victim of such an accident could face a long recovery time, lost income and high medical expenses. An attorney representing such a victim can review the logs and other evidence in order to demonstrate that the negligent driver and trucking company should be held financially responsible for those losses.