Posted on / by The Trucking Alliance

Electronic Logging Devices Can Determine Safe Truck Driving Hours

Washington, D.C.
Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, Inc. (The Trucking Alliance)

“Statement on the Futility of Debating Truck Driver Hours-of-Service Rules until the 2012 Congressional Mandate to Install Electronic Logging Devices Occurs”

Lane Chandler Kidd

Managing Director

October 16, 2014

Washington, D.C. – “The transportation and logistics industry has a responsibility to move our nation’s freight efficiently, and especially, safely – specifically, without accidents involving commercial truck drivers and motorists. A primary way to achieve improved highway safety is to make sure that truck drivers are well rested, since truck driver fatigue is cited as a cause in truck accidents.

Federal hours-of-service rules are designed to impose reasonable limits on a truck driver’s workday, so that truck drivers have an adequate opportunity to be well rested. The latest in a long series of changes to the federal hours of service rule for truck drivers was implemented in July 2013.

The current federal hours of service rules require that drivers have a 10-hour rest break each day before getting behind the wheel, resulting in properly rested drivers, with minimal opportunity for cumulative fatigue. The rule limits truck drivers to a 14-hour workday, a maximum of 70 hours of driving per week, mandatory rest breaks and other measures.

However, in the 16 months since the rule was implemented, many trucking companies, including Alliance corporate members, report that certain aspects of the rule are creating undesirable consequences for professional drivers. But government data on the relative safety merits of the rule are not available.

Some industry sectors support repealing parts of the hours of service rule for truck drivers. Other stakeholders oppose such a repeal, and refer to a new national poll that shows a large majority of the public strongly opposes allowing truck drivers to operate their trucks up to 84 hours per week, which a repeal of the current rule would do. Yet, among Alliance corporate members, and most fleets, truck drivers average 7 to 8 hours per day of driving time, and rarely even meet the maximum of 70 hours of driving time per week, allowed under the current rule.

The stark reality is that until there’s a way to verify industry compliance it doesn’t matter what the federal government’s hours of service rules are for truck drivers, because truck drivers can simply ignore these federal rules.

They can choose to drive as many hours as they want to drive, and they do every day, because truck drivers are only required to fill out a paper logbook, writing down their driving time, and paper logbooks are easily falsified.

Enforcement of these federal hours of service rules relies on state commercial vehicle safety agencies to conduct roadside reviews and audits. While these agencies perform well, they are largely underfunded and undermanned to assure the public that truck drivers are obeying the law.

So nobody really knows who is and who is not following these federal hours of service rules because paper logbooks easily allow truck drivers to exceed their maximum number of hours behind the wheel.

That’s why the Alliance prefers a deliberate process in which a 2012 congressional mandate is accelerated to require electronic logging devices in all commercial trucks.Congress actually passed this legislation in its last transportation reauthorization bill, called MAP-21, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is almost two years behind schedule in implementing this critically important law, a measure that will truly improve highway safety. Every effort should be made to urge the Department of Transportation to accelerate the timeframe for implementing the electronic logging device law, sooner than later.

These electronic logging devices will record driving data that won’t lie. Technology will assure compliance with current rules and also provide objective data to determine how many hours of driving time for truck drivers should be allowed.

Additionally, the Alliance believes that other safety measures can do as much to reduce the number of accidents involving commercial truck drivers and motorists as these hours of service rules. For example, we support another congressional mandate passed in 2012 – to create a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse, which will help identify people who have previously tested positive on a drug and alcohol exam to become a truck driver, as well as related legislation now pending before Congress that will recognize even more effective methods to identify lifestyle drug abusers and keep them out of trucks.

The Alliance also supports speed governors on commercial trucks, an increase in the minimum insurance level for trucking companies and incentives to adopt other commercial safety technologies to reduce accidents on our nation’s highways. These measures will help ensure fewer accidents and safer highways for all Americans.”

The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (aka as “The Trucking Alliance” and “Alliance”) is a coalition of leading transportation, logistics and supporting businesses that support ways to improve commercial truck safety, promote a cleaner environment and a robust U.S. economy.