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Electronic Logs for Truck Drivers Soon to Become Legally Required

Two trucks on the freeway

In a regulatory change that seems long overdue as an important step in driver and motor carrier accountability, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – the governmental body tasked with regulating commercial long-haul trucking – has enacted a rule requiring that drivers use electronic logging devices. The rule was published on December 16, 2015, and will soon become law on February 16, 2016. However, drivers will not become obligated to install and use electronic logging devices until December of 2017, offering a two-year grace period for the estimated 3 million commercial truck drivers to implement the new system.

Currently, drivers governed by the FMCSA are required to maintain logs of all hours worked and rested, whether that time is spent behind the wheel, on break, loading cargo, maintaining their truck, or resting. These logs are intended as a way to ensure that drivers comply with the hours of service rules which limit the number of hours that drivers can be behind the wheel, and require that drivers take breaks at regular intervals and rest for a certain uninterrupted length of time during each 24 hour period. Since 1938, drivers have been permitted to use paper logs to record this information. Drivers, under heavy pressure to transport their loads in a short amount of time, sometimes have a strong incentive to create false records of hours driven and time off-duty, which creates a serious risk of fatigued or drug-stimulated drivers on the road, and an ensuing safety risk for other drivers. Electronic logging devices, which will begin recording hours and miles driven automatically upon engine start, will make it much more difficult to falsify driving logs, and should promote safety for everyone on the road.

The electronic logging devices which drivers must use need not all be identical, but they must all perform certain functions under the law. The devices must be capable of recording the date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, and identification of the driver, as well as the vehicle identity and motor carrier. There are strict rules barring the editing or deleting of data on the devices, and the rules require that there be some way to monitor the device to ensure that it is not malfunctioning and is properly recording data. If a motor carrier is found to be using the electronic logging device to coerce or harass drivers to drive more or longer, then that carrier is eligible to receive a hefty fine.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a New Jersey truck accident, contact personal injury and truck crash attorney Andrew R. Jacobs for a free consultation on your potential claims, at 973-532-9681.

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