Most motor vehicle crashes involving commercial trucks and buses result in serious injury or death. According to a recent report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are approximately 4,000 fatal crashes each year involving large trucks or buses.
Over-the-road truck drivers travel across the country each day in large tractor-trailers. Their incentive is to deliver goods as efficiently (quickly) as possible, because the more miles they travel delivering goods, the more money they make.
Truck Driver Fatigue
A major public safety problem, however, is truck driver fatigue-related truck crashes. When drivers are on the road for too long, they naturally become fatigued, tired, and cannot pay careful attention to the roadway. The FMCSA has taken notice of this problem, and issued various hours-of-service rules and regulations to minimize commercial driver fatigue-related crashes.
Hours of Service Logs
Commercial drivers are required to maintain a contemporaneous log of their time working — both on and off duty — and are subject to various rules promulgated by the FMCSA — which are slightly different depending on whether the commercial vehicle is carrying passengers or freight, and include the following:
- Cannot drive for more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Cannot drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
- Drivers using the tractor’s sleeper berth must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth
Although truck and bus drivers are required to accurately log their hours of service to comply with these rules, they have historically done so with pencil and paper, making them virtually impossible to verify.
After a crash involving a commercial truck driver resulting in serious injury or death to our clients, we always want to see the driver logs of the truck driver involved. In the example above, is it more likely that the driver was averaging 78 mils per hour for 3.5 hours, or that he was driving for longer than 3.5 hours in violation of federal hours of service rules? The driver is negligent either way.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
To help ensure commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue-related crashes, the FMCS has issued a rule requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs). This will eliminate the ability of truck drivers to falsify or manipulate their hours of service logging, and will allow law enforcement to easily identify federal safety violations.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the rule requiring commercial vehicles to be equipped with an ELD designed to reduce the number of accidents involving fatigued drivers.
The truck accident lawyers of Passen & Powell agree that equipping commercial vehicles with this technology is a step in the right direction to curb preventable, often catastrophic truck and bus crashes on our roadways.
An attorney with Passen & Powell is available anytime to discuss a motor vehicle crash resulting in serious injury. Call us at 312-527-4500.