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New federal rule impacts truck drivers

A new federal rule designed to reduce commercial vehicle accidents will impact California truckers when it goes into effect in early 2016. It will require truckers and bus drivers to electronically record their hours instead of using the paper logs that have been required since 1938.

Announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the new rule is designed to prevent driver fatigue that can result in accidents. Truck accident investigators say paper logs can be changed too easily and that drivers keep two logs as they attempt to evade restrictions on driving hours. Electronic logs are more difficult to tamper with. With electronic monitoring, driving hours will be determined by a number of factors, including hours the engine has been running, miles driven, geographic location and vehicle movement. The rule exempts certain drivers, including those who drive tow trucks or who use time cards as the method of recording hours. Trucking companies will have two years to install the monitoring devices.

Opponents of the new safety rule include drivers who own their own trucks or small fleets. They say the monitoring system will allow companies they are driving for to access their logs and could result in them forcing drivers to drive longer, even though drivers say they are tired and want to pull off the road.

The federal agency says electronic logs will save the trucking industry $1 billion a year, mostly in paperwork reduction costs. It also estimates that it will save 26 lives and prevent 562 truck accident injuries on an annual basis. However, it won't entirely eliminate accidents caused by fatigued truckers, and people who are injured in such an accident may want the assistance of a personal injury attorney in seeking financial damages from the negligent driver and, if applicable, the trucking company as well.

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