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Log Book Violations and Drowsy Driving

Last week’s tragic truck accident on Interstate 55 near Elwood has renewed concerns about log book practices and overworked drivers. The driver in that case is accused of falsifying his log book entry. His paper log book indicated he began working around 6-6:30 a.m. Investigators have uncovered evidence that he actually started work at around 2:30 a.m. If the allegation is true, it will likely increase the pressure on safety officials to accelerate the move to electronic record keeping.

The method used by truck drivers and trucking companies to track work hours has been under scrutiny for some time. In March of this year, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made a proposal to require the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) by interstate commercial truck and bus companies. The proposal suggested that drivers and the businesses that employ them would face substantially reduced paperwork burdens if they made the switch. Many larger trucking companies already use ELDs.

The FMCSA proposal also touted the safety benefits of electronic record keeping. The devices are believed to make it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their hours of service and get away with it. The government reported that a switch to ELDs could prevent 20 traffic deaths and 434 injuries per year, for a total safety benefit of nearly $400 million.

Federal regulations limit drivers to 14-hour shifts during which only 11 hours can be spent driving. In addition, drivers are limited in how many hours they can work in a week. To reset a week, drivers must take 34 consecutive hours off, including two nighttime periods. Paper log books may make it easy for drivers to violate these hour restrictions. The pressure to establish mandatory electronic log book rules will likely increase following this accident. If such a rule is adopted, carriers will be given a two-year window in which to comply.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Latest trucker crash puts logbooks under scrutiny,” by Dennis Sullivan, Kim Geiger and Geoff Ziezulewicz, 22 July 2014

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