New federal regulations mandating the use of electronic driver logs are now set to go into effect sooner than expected. The Department of Transportation will now publish its new rules covering electronic logs on Sept. 30. The DOT had previously said the final rules, which aim to keep the roads safer by reducing driver fatigue, wouldn’t be published until almost a year from now.
After the new regulations are published, trucking companies will have two years to implement the electronic logs. In addition to electronic record keeping, the DOT’s new rules also touch on driver harassment, hardware specifications and other hours of service documentation. These DOT regulations, which have strong supporters and detractors, are going to have an impact on every truck driver.
There are few attorneys who know the ins and outs of truck accident law as well as Fried Rogers Goldberg LLC. We literally wrote the book on truck accident law, and it’s our job to stay up on changes. Here’s what we know.
The Electronic Logbook Law And What’s Changing
The DOT’s new regulations can be broken into four sections. The most important and noteworthy is the mandatory implementation of electronic logs. The DOT and others in support of the electronic logs say they will keep drivers safer by reducing hours-of-service violations, as well as greatly reduce paperwork. Here’s what’s happening:
- The electronic logs will be required for any driver who must have paper logs for 8 or more days out of 30 on the road.
- For companies already using approved record-keeping devices, there appears to be a provision extending the DOT’s deadline.
- It’s expected that the cost to adapt to the electronic logs will be anywhere from $200 to $832.
- According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data, 20 deaths and 434 injuries per year will be prevented by mass use of electronic log books.
- The log books will save $394.8 million per year in annual safety benefits, the FMCSA says.
Here’s what federal transportation officials are saying about the use of electronic logs:
“By implementing Electronic Logging Devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel. With broad support from safety advocates, carriers and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries.” – Anne S. Ferro, FMSCA
“Today’s proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork – exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address. By leveraging innovative technology with Electronic Logging Devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors.” – Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary
Some are opposed to the widespread use of electronic log books. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association has been leading that fight. OOIDA wrote a 53-page response to the government’s electronic logbook proposal, saying mandatory e-logs would have “wide-ranging, negative implications” because, among other reasons, state inspectors are not properly equipped and the electronic logs themselves may not be accurate.
OOIDA also said carriers use the electronic logs to harass drivers, potentially affecting safety. For example, a trucking company could order a trucker back on the road if the log shows he has not reached his limit of drivable hours — though the driver may have stopped because he was too fatigued to drive.
But driver harassment is another major point in the new DOT regulations. FMCSA’s website says there will be an explicit ban on harassment of drivers through the electronic logs. A procedure will also be set up to file harassment complaints that can be punishable by up to an $11,000 civil penalty for “a motor carrier that engages in harassment of a driver that leads to an hours-of-service violation or the driver operating the vehicle when they are so fatigued or ill it compromises safety.”
According to the to-be-published rules, harassment rule changes would include:
- Drivers having increased access to records
- Precise wording about carriers harassing drivers
- Implementation of a complaint procedure
- Stiffer penalties for driver harassment
- Limitations on tracking
- A mute function on devices
- Driver confidentially in enforcement proceedings
The new DOT rules will include hardware changes. Overall, there will be more technological advances required than the DOT’s 2010 rules, chief among those the electronic log device. Specifications will mandate a device be attached to each truck’s engine to track miles driven, motion status, engine hours and more.
For now, that’s what we know about how the DOT’s new regulations will affect truck drivers from Georgia and beyond.
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