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Proposed Rule Addresses Trucking Log-Book Fraud: Could Missouri Benefit?

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, driver fatigue contributes to more than 70,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year. National Health Data indicates that 30 to 40 percent of all truck accidents were linked to driver fatigue.

As part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mission of promoting safer roads and commercial carrier compliance, the agency has proposed rules requiring commercial carriers to install electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs). While some trucking industry stakeholders might have expected this rule, others consider it unnecessary.

The Debate over EOBRs

The rate of commercial carrier fatal crashes has decreased since the 1970s as a result of initiatives, driver education and law enforcement efforts to curtail risky truck driver habits and commercial carrier practices. Under the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, accountability has become a key component of safety. Other than requirements for safety checks, stricter duty time mandates and incident reporting, the current FMSCA EOBR rule affects carriers that habitually violate FMSCA regulations regarding hours of service. However, FMSCA announced that the rule would be expanded to include all commercial carriers.

EOBRs are already in use internationally. The digital devices record vehicle operation time. Trucking associations such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association see the technology as costly and just another way of harassing commercial drivers. While the device can capture driving time, it cannot record other parts of a trucker’s job, such as loading, unloading, and other aspects of “on-duty, not driving” time.

Electronic logs can provide accurate record keeping and reduce the risk of erroneous and fraudulent driver logs. In the past several years, news reports have surfaced about drivers fined and imprisoned for log falsification. After a fatal truck and car accident in December 2010, law enforcement confirmed that the St. Louis truck driver had falsified his driver’s logs to hide his non-compliance with federal hours of service rules.

The general belief is that truckers, due to a mixed sense of duty and pressure to deliver, regularly make fraudulent log entries to comply with federal guidelines and company expectations.

The Goal of the Proposed Rule

The goal of the newly expanded FMSCA rule is to reduce injuries and fatalities related to drowsy driving or truck-driver fatigue. A well-trained driver is as much of a risk as an untrained driver if his abilities are impaired by lack of sleep and rest.

With trucks accounting for approximately 4 percent of all registered vehicles on the road but responsible for 11 percent of accidents, non-commercial drivers should realize that the impact of the EOBR rule affects everyone who shares the road with big trucks. With support for the new federal regulation, our nation’s roads can be safer, and human lives can be saved.