The trucking industry has been under careful watch in recent years. With high numbers of deaths and accidents on the road, regulators felt it was time to take action.
According to John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, there are over 4,000 deaths per year from truck crashes. “All the numbers are trending the wrong way. It’s been going up steadily and we need to do something now.”
The Obama administration has attempted to reduce these numbers with strict new laws related to trucking. In 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was in the process of drafting a new rule. One that would require drivers to be screened and treated for sleep apnea. But in August of 2017, the Trump administration abruptly put a halt to it.
Fatigue is a common factor in truck-related crashes. “We are tired of seeing truck drivers being tired,” says Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
He and others were understandably frustrated with the new administration interfering with advanced safety efforts. “It is unacceptable,” Sumwalt said.
The sleep apnea rule is not the only one that’s been halted as of late. According to an article from the National Public Radio, the FMCSA also halted a new rule requiring speed-limiting devices on trucks. Other efforts that have been shot down include a revamp of motor carrier safety ratings, additional undercarriage guarding, and automatic emergency braking systems.
Lannen says that the Trump administration is undermining safety at a time when crashes, injuries, and fatalities are on the rise.
The most recent regulation battle is with the upcoming requirement for all commercial trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices, or ELD’s.
The logging devices will monitor the amount of time drivers spend on the road. The intent is to make sure that drivers don’t exceed the maximum number of hours they’re allowed drive.
ELD’s would replace paper log books that truck drivers have been using since the 1930’s. It’s easy for drivers to fudge these old paper books. There’s not much supervision in place to hold drivers accountable for the accuracy of these books.
So why would drivers want to falsify their books?
Federal law mandates that truckers cannot drive for more than 11 hours per day. This is the rule that the electronic logging devices are designed to enforce.
Truck drivers say that the ELD’s don’t provide enough flexibility in dealing with the realities of the road.
Todd Spencer is the executive vice president of Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. According to him, “It doesn’t take into account the delays that you may encounter at a shipper or receiver, or as a result of construction or congestion, or maybe a crash on the road.”
And he has a point. Because these kinds of delays can cost drivers valuable time. And since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, that time is valuable.
The cost of the ELD’s is another reason why trucking companies aren’t happy about the new regulation. Devices can be expensive, up to $500 a piece. That can add up pretty quick for a company with a large fleet. It’s especially hard on independent drivers and owner-operators.
Truckers have made efforts to voice their concern. Time will soon tell if this regulation goes into effect.
Do you work in the trucking industry? What are your thoughts around this new regulation? For more tips on how to avoid driver fatigue, check out our other recent post for OTR truck drivers.