The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will begin training some 13,000 Electronic Logging Device compliance inspectors as soon as late October 2017, as it appears almost inevitable that the rule will take effect on December 18, 2017.
The FMCSA published the initial rule in December 2015, and almost immediately, industry lobbyists and lawyers began fighting the proposal. Essentially, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other groups argued that the devices, which automatically record a driver’s hours of service based on the periods of time that the vehicle is in operation, violated rules against warrantless searches and seizures. But in June 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the OOIDA’s final appeal. Lobbying efforts have stalled as well, as a last-ditch bill from Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), which would delay the rule for two years, has been stalled in committee since its July introduction. Three other similar attempts — including a September amendment to an appropriations bill — have all fallen short.
Although noncompliance fines will take effect immediately, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which is the nonprofit group tasked with ELD enforcement, said it would not issue out-of-service orders until April 1, 2018.
Drowsy Truck Drivers
While the FMCSA estimates that the ELD mandate will cost some $2 billion to implement, the agency also says that the provision will prevent nearly 2,000 drowsy driving-related crashes in the first year alone.
Currently, truckers keep track of their driving hours manually, and it is very easy to manipulate or even falsify these records. ELDs eliminate this risk altogether, and they are supposedly tamper-proof. While ELDs will ensure that drivers stick to the 11-hour daily driving maximum, assuming that the driver is in full compliance with the rule and that the data on the device has not been altered or compromised, the number of hours that a driver is behind the wheel is not the only concern.
Typically, truck drivers can be on the road at any time of the day or night, and that loophole may have grave consequences in terms of an individual’s circadian rhythm. Essentially, no matter how much rest they get, most people are more alert during the day than they are at night. Most people also are naturally drowsy in the early afternoon. So, a trucker could be on the road for less than the 11-hour maximum and still be dangerously drowsy. If the trucker recently altered his/her schedule, the risk is even higher, because it takes the body some time to develop a new circadian rhythm, especially as individuals enter middle age.
The time of the wreck, along with information about the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) regular schedule, is probably sufficient to establish drowsiness by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), a finding which entitles the victim/plaintiff to both economic and noneconomic damages.
Drowsy truck drivers cause thousands of crashes each year. Contact an attorney, like an experienced personal injury attorney Atlanta GA trusts, for more information on your potential case.
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