In 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation released a sobering statistic. The state had not gone a single day in 15 years without a fatality on one of its roads and highways. While there are a variety of factors that contribute to the statistic, driving while fatigued is a significant contributor to Texas’ dangerous roads.
Nearly 5,000 crashes on Texas roads in 2016 alone were tied to driver fatigue. When a tired and therefore unfit driver is behind the wheel of an 18-wheel, 80,000-pound vehicle, damage and devastation follow. Truck driver fatigue is a public safety issue that regulators must address.
Blind Trust Is Unsafe When Regulating Hours of Service
The Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service Regulations mandates that commercial vehicle drivers involved in interstate commerce comply with a 14-hour driving window. This means a trucker is allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.
These hours restrictions were put in place to prevent the very real danger presented by truck driver fatigue on the roads. However, for a trucker and shipping company, time is money. Too often, they’ll falsify their numbers when recording their hours of service on paper logs.
Technology Could Increase Compliance and Safety
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed on all commercial vehicles would make it impossible to falsify hours of service records. Studies indicate that rigs equipped with ELD devices experience a 5-percent reduction in preventable crashes and almost a 12-percent reduction in all crash rates.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ruled that all rigs had to be ELD compliant by December of 2017. Out-of-service enforcement began in April of 2018, allowing companies and drivers a grace period to get used to the equipment. Drivers and companies found to be non-compliant will face heavy fines and could face a federal investigation.
In addition to ensuring operators are not driving outside the mandated 14-hour window, ELDs will also enable other helpful services:
- Pinpoint driver location within one mile while on duty
- Automatically log driving time every 60 minutes
- Record driver ID, vehicle miles, engine hours, location, date and time
Additionally, ELDs are tamper-proof, so no one can alter or erase information collected for official records.
ELDs Still Leave Room for Carelessness
At first glance, ELDs seem like an effective solution. But while ELDs have the capability to ensure driving hours are correctly reported, there is no way to accurately measure how long a driver has been awake prior to getting into the truck.
The online publication, Freight Waves, cites the high-profile 2014 case of the Walmart truck driver who rear-ended comedian Tracy Morgan’s limousine, severely injuring Morgan and killing one of the limo’s passengers. At 13 hours into his 14-hour shift, the driver was within the DOT’s mandated driving window. However, he had commuted eight hours prior to that just to get to work. He reportedly had been awake for more than 28 hours and then driving. It may have been a legal situation, but it was also a lethal one.
Has A Driver’s Fatigue or Other Recklessness Caused You Harm?
While ELDs may not be perfect, they are a hopeful step in the right direction. Sadly, not all drivers and businesses can be trusted to prioritize safety over profits. The lack of ethics can significantly impact unsuspecting victims of the roadways. Those who have been injured or lost loved ones in a Texas truck accident can attest to that fact.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash with a truck, you need the support of legal professionals who understand personal injury laws and trucking industry regulations. Call 800-TedLyon or email us to schedule your free consultation today. We even offer home and hospital consultations for those unable to visit our office.