Drowsy driving is a major safety issue for the commercial trucking industry. In the past several years, there have been multiple high-profile truck accidents involving fatigued commercial drivers. For instance, in 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury after being involved in an accident with a Walmart truck driver. An investigation discovered that the Walmart driver had been awake for more than 24 hours and working for 14 hours. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the driver was almost at his federal hour-of-service limit.
Commercial drivers are required to abide by hours-of-service rules. These are federal and state regulations that limit the number of hours intrastate and interstate commercial truckers can drive. For example, federal hours-of-service rules maintain that commercial truckers cannot work for more than 14 hours in a day. It may also be an hours-of-service violation to spend more than 11 hours per day driving (there are very few exceptions).
Commercial truck drivers are required to keep detailed logbooks that show they are in compliance with hours-of-service rules. These logbooks can be either paper or electronic. However, it is well-known paper logbooks are much easier to falsify. Truck accident attorneys know from experience that these logbooks are falsified on a regular basis.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a rule that would require commercial trucking companies to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their vehicles (with few exceptions). These devices download driving time data directly from the engine. Law enforcement could quickly check this information to determine hours-of-service compliance. As a result, it could be much more difficult to falsify logbooks.
Transportation safety advocates, members of the trucking industry and federal lawmakers have debated the use of requiring the mandatory installation of ELDs. Opponents believe the rule will violate privacy and impose unfair costs on trucking companies. Proponents believe the rule is necessary to enforce hours-of-service compliance in the 21st century.
FMCSA’s ELD rule would have gone into effect on December 18, 2017. Most trucking companies would have been required to install ELDs by this date. However, the ELD mandate has been postponed by Congress until 2018.
Do We Need ELDs?
To understand why safety advocates are strong proponents of ELDs, it helps to understand why fatigued driving among commercial truckers is a problem. Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when their trailers are fully loaded. As a result, these massive and heavy vehicles can cause much more devastation than a normal car accident. This is the reason why there are strict regulations in place that are designed to prevent truck crashes – whatever the cause. Hours-of-service rules do not exist for normal drivers because they are not operating vehicles capable of causing widespread destruction.
But what good are hours-of-service regulations if they can be easily ignored? Transportation safety advocates claim that ELDs would serve a useful purpose by ensuring hours-of-service rules are followed.
Truck accidents kill thousands of people per year, a large percentage of which are occupants in passenger vehicles. According to statistics collected by the FMCSA, there were 3,541 fatal truck accidents during 2013. Fatigue was one of the top ten contributing factors to these crashes.
It is also worth mentioning that there are other reasons commercial drivers may become fatigued while driving. Some drivers may also suffer from sleep apnea, a condition which causes excessive daytime drowsiness. This is another major safety issue that has been tackled by industry advocates and regulators during the past few years.
What if Fatigued Driving Caused My Truck Accident?
There are several reasons why you should hire an attorney after a truck accident. Commercial carriers (some of which may be trucking companies) may attempt to conceal information that could determine the cause of your crash. This is likely to be the case if they believe the accident was caused by drowsy driving. An attorney can keep a trucking company from destroying data on the electronic control module (ECM). This is a device found in the engines of most trucks that were manufactured after the 1990s. This data may help determine whether the truck driver was in violation of hours-of-service rules.
Trucking companies are also required to supervise their drivers very closely. For example, a trucking company must review logbooks to ensure its drivers are in compliance with hours-of-service rules. If a trucking company allowed violations to occur, it could also establish fault. An attorney could request this information from the trucking company.
These are only a few examples of how an attorney can help. If you or a loved one were hurt in a truck accident, then please call us to discuss your situation. Tennessee truck accident attorney Stanley A. Davis could help you determine whether you have options to file a lawsuit.