Trucking safety advocates are proposing that the government follow the European model that requires trucking companies to use an electronic system to record their hours of work and rest, instead of the paper log system that drivers can easily falsify to allow them to remain on the road more hours per day than permitted by federal law.
A Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel story by Rick Romell sheds light on the problem of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Federal rules require that truck drivers drive no more than 11 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours of rest. (A good short history of regulatory struggle over hours of service appears in Jeff Lowe’s blog here.) As Romell points out in a companion article about Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fines imposed on trucking firms, truck drivers have the incentive to falsify the hours of work and rest because drivers are paid by the hour, and most are non-union employees that earn no overtime. At the same time, trucking firms have the same incentive to skirt hours of service regulations because, as Romell points out, “The longer a driver stays on the road, the less those additional hours cost his employer.”
There is no good reason to avoid the European approach to highway safety. Every year there are hundreds of avoidable accidents that could be prevented by keeping tired truck drivers off the road. Forcing the trucking industry to switch to the electronic system for tracking driver hours is good policy.
For more information on this subject matter, please refer to the section on Tractor Trailer Accidents.