Truckers have until December 2017 to install electronic time-tracking monitors in their trucks. In an effort to make highways safer by monitoring truckers’ hours, these devices have been approved by federal and state officials. While advocates of the new rule tout the importance of assured compliance with the Hours of Service regulations, some worry that electronic logs will lead to decreased pay.
Truckers are required to take unpaid breaks after performing duties such as driving or waiting at loading docks for 11 hours during a 14-hour on-duty stretch. They can be tempted to overestimate the expediency of their deliveries so they can continue to drive and accrue income. This can lead to catastrophic accidents due to drowsy driving, which, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, is the cause of up to 100,000 accidents per year.
Driving Log Violations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that driving log violations are the most common reason that police issue citations during truck inspections. The following are the results of an FMCSA report that examined 869,361 total issued violations through August 25, 2017:
Driving log violations accounted for 17 percent of citations
Speeding accounted for 6.7 percent of citations
Failure to wear seatbelts accounted for 6.2 percent of citations
Driving beyond the 8-hour limit without a break accounted for 5.5 percent of citations
No record of a driving status accounted for 5.4 percent of citations
This report shows that infractions related to records of time spent on the road are the most common among truckers. The FMCSA estimates that electronic logs will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries annually because truckers will no longer be able to engage in off-book driving. The chief executive of the American Trucking Associations in Virginia stated that the only reason anyone would be opposed to the new technology is because they want to violate the Hours of Service rules.
Truline Corp., a large trucking company that has already converted to electronic logs, has already seen a 12 percent drop in weekly miles traveled. With the implementation of the electronic log, truckers who are paid by the mile could see their income drop significantly. The chief operating officer for the Missouri Independent Drivers Association predicts that smaller carriers will be leaving the business – a concerning probability for the trucking industry which already suffers from a high turnover. Smaller companies like B.L. Reever Transport Inc. in Ohio are waiting until the last minute to switch over to the electronic logs.
Another issue that concerns these smaller fleet operators is the cost of implementing the electronic logs. Drivers are paid an average of 40 cents per mile. The $1,000 electronic logs and the $40 per-truck monthly service fees impose a financial burden on small fleets and owner operators, which account for about half of the heavy-duty trucks-for-hire in the United States. State and federal law enforcement agencies will begin fining non-compliant truckers in December, but they will not be forced off of the road until April.
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