Tallying thousands of highway miles every year provides commercial truck drivers experience and a certain level of comfort behind the wheel of a large vehicle. Although this may be true, spending so much time on the road can also take a physical toll, which is exactly why truck drivers and their employers are required to follow federal mandates for hours of service and rest periods.
Current federal regulations require commercial truckers -- and bus drivers -- who cross state boundaries to keep a log of the hours they spend on the road, in addition to limiting that time. This mandate can be fulfilled with manually or automatically completed records. However, federal officials are looking to require that these records be recorded automatically with an electronic device in all commercial vehicles.
At this time, many larger trucking or bus companies might have electronic hour-recording devices on their vehicles, but smaller operations might not have caught up. Observers note that paper records are much easier to falsify. In other words, individual truckers or their employers can sidestep federal rules by fudging the numbers. These illegal measures may be taken in order to complete more trips and meet aggressive shipping deadlines.
Although violating service-hour regulations might be a way to increase profits, it can come at an enormous cost. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency responsible for enforcing these regulations, said that rule changes would prevent about 20 fatal accidents and 434 injuries annually.
The dangers of truck driver fatigue have been reported on this blog. Most recently, we discussed the case of a driver who had driven for 26 hours with only 3.5 hours of rest. Unfortunately, that man caused a fatal accident. This is the kind of situation the FMCSA hopes to address if the new regulations are adopted.
Smarter, better regulations can certainly prove to go a long way in helping to prevent truck accidents. However, it's ultimately still the responsibility of drivers and trucking companies to make safety their top priority.