Plans don't always work out in real life the way we plan them. The same is true for regulations, and a very good example of that can be seen in the way the federal government tries to stop truck driver fatigue by making truckers keep an electronic log of the hours they're behind the wheel. But does it actually work?
Sadly, no, the electronic logs have not stopped driver fatigue, and many truck accidents are still caused by tired truck drivers.
But there's more to the story than that. In this article, we'll explain how it's supposed to work, how it actually works, and what we've seen as we've litigated truck accident cases both before and after truckers were required to keep electronic logs.
How It's Supposed to Work
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency in charge of regulating the trucking industry, created the Hours-of-Service (HOS) Rule as a means to reduce or altogether eliminate drowsy truck drivers on US roads.
The HOS regulations put a cap on the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel between mandatory breaks or rest periods. Additionally, the regulations require commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers to maintain logs, called Record of Duty Status (RODS), to show when the driver is on the clock, driving, not driving, sleeping in a truck's sleeper berth, and when the driver is off the clock as a way to prove that drivers are following the HOS Rule.
Effective in 2019, FMCSA mandated that a trucker's RODS would be generated by an Electronic Logging Device (ELD), a piece of hardware attached to a vehicle's engine to record driving hours, instead of the previous paper logbooks.
How It Works in Real Life - Truckers Often Cheat
However, despite the agency's ELD mandate, some employers and truck drivers found several ways to edit the ELD-created records, so that it looked like a truck driver was following the HOS regulations regardless of the reality.
In fact, we wrote an article in 2019 about the then-approaching ELD mandate, which prompted several truckers to leave comments explaining that editing an ELD log is a common occurrence and sometimes sanctioned by companies to do so. Here are screenshots from two such comments:
Additionally, truck driver message boards and forums constantly have posts wherein truck drivers discuss breaking the rules.
Truck Drivers Cheating on Their Electronic Hours of Service Logs is a Huge Safety Concern
Obviously, anyone driving while fatigued is a huge safety concern, but a drowsy truck driver is even more concerning simply because 18-wheelers typically weigh 35,000-80,000 pounds. (For a frame of reference, a Ford F-150 weighs 4,021 to 5,740 pounds.) So even though 18-wheeler crashes are not the majority of wrecks, they are disproportionally fatal.
Of course, not every truck driver is out there trying to drive ridiculously long shifts, and many truckers say that an ELD forces them to drive longer shifts than they normally would prefer. Regardless, no matter who you talk to it seems like ELDs were a good idea to address a serious issue but, in practice, are not the ultimate solution to driver fatigue. It's more a case of "build a better mousetrap and they build a better mouse."
Currently, rule-breaking truck drivers and trucking companies seem to only learn their lesson through costly lawsuits. If we could test fatigue in a person's breath like we can alcohol, then we might be able to prevent drowsy driving. For now, victims injured by a drowsy truck driver can seek a remedy for their loss(es) through a lawsuit.
Whether you were hit by a commercial truck or lost a loved one in a truck accident, please feel free to call Grossman Law Offices. We are more than willing to speak with you about your truck accident.