Will Electronic Trucker Logs Combat Reckless & Fatigued Commercial Driving?

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According to National Highway traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) commercial trucking accidents resulted in more than $50 billion in damages in 2012. However, this $50 billion is damages pales in comparison to the nearly 4,000 lives that were lost due to trucking accidents in 2012 alone. The unfortunate and tragic 2014 accident that inflicted a TBI and other life-altering injuries on Tracy Morgan and took the life of James “Jimmy Mack” McNair perfectly encapsulates two of the biggest problems faced by the trucking industry: fatigued driving and driving at excessive speeds. That accident illustrated the problems caused by both. Fatigue causes a driver, even a highly trained commercial driver, to perceive threats more slowly while also reducing one’s ability to react quickly. Furthermore, the driver’s decision-making abilities are impaired. In fact, the CDC states that after 18 hours of wakefulness, a fatigued driver’s level of cognitive impairment is similar to that of a drive with a BAC of 0.05%. After 24 hours of being awake, a driver’s level of impairment is similar to a driver with a BAC of 0.10%. If the driver has indulged in alcohol or drugs, the effects of fatigue are amplified. Drivers should always ensure that they have adequate sleep before setting out on the road. Furthermore, if the driver has a sleep or other condition, he or she must ensure that it is fully controlled by medication or other means.

What Solutions Exist to Address Fatigued Commercial Driving?

One of the solutions regarding fatigued driving is transitioning away from the traditional methods of keeping driving logs through pen and paper journals to an electronic logging format. In fact, rules due for publication on September 20th would force truckers to move away from the old system and engage in electronic logging practices. Proponents of the change believe that the transition to electronic logging systems would significantly decrease the incidences of fatigued driving, hours of service violations, and other problems long associated with the industry. It appears that statistics lend credence to these claims.

An April 2014 DOT and FMCSA study that looked at more than 83,000 crashes determined that trucks using electronic logs experienced 11.7 percent fewer crashes than trucks that kept manual records in paper log books. Furthermore, truckers that engaged in electronic logging were assessed 53 percent fewer hours of service violations.

What Shortcomings Exist With Electronic Logging?

However some contend that the benefits gained by electronic logging may be short-lived or merely a statistical anomaly reflecting successful attempts at concealing hours-of-service violations. As for the former, consider that merely because the log is electronic does not mean that the record is infallible or immune from tampering. It is at least possible that drivers and trucking companies will devise increasingly clever ways to manipulate the logging systems as they become widespread and standardized. Consider the development of electronic point-of-sale systems commonly found in retail stores.

Whereas the initial promise of the system was increased reliability and automatic logging of all transactions, some businesses have developed ways to get around this reporting by using electronic devices and software known as “zappers.” There is no reason preventing the development of similar software to manipulate an electronic logging system simply because that system happens to be found in a truck. If such action occurs, electronic logs may carry the presumption of greater reliability while not, in fact, being accurate.

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Potential use of Electronic Speed Limiters to Address Speeding Trucks

Traveling at excessive speeds also greatly increases the odds of a commercial vehicle crash. In fact, speed is cited as the critical pre-crash factor in nearly 20 percent of all accidents. In light of this stat, some safety advocates have proposed the use of electronic speed limiters will make American highways safer. Those in support of this proposal believe that reducing the maximum speed trucks can travel at will not only reduce the number of accidents that occur, it will also reduce the severity of the injuries inflicted when accidents do occur. However, there is at least one challenge to limiting the speed of trucks. When you limit the speed of one class of vehicle but not in any other vehicle class or type unexpected behavior can arise.

For instance, individuals in cars and other passenger vehicles may be frustrated by trucks that are only permitted to travel no faster than 55 miles per hour. These drivers may weave in and out of traffic to pass the trucks. In short, in states where speed limits read 65, 75, or 80 miles per hour the limiters may have significant and increasing impacts on the flow of traffic.

Injured in a Commercial Trucking Accident in Pennsylvania?

If you have been severely injured by a speeding or fatigued commercial truck driver, the dedicated and aggressive Philadelphia truck accident attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you. We are trusted by injured Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians to fight for you and obtain compensation for your severe injuries and other losses. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call our firm at (215) 246-9000 today.

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