Senator Urges DOT to Expedite Electronic Logging Mandate

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer yesterday released a statement on his plan to push for stricter trucking regulations— the mandated usage of electronic logs.

In the statement, Schumer proclaimed that “4,000 people die and 10,000 are injured in truck crashes each year and 13 percent of serious crashes are caused by trucker fatigue.”   Shumer failed to mention that a study by the ATA in 2012, based on data from the University of Michigan, the National Highway Safety Administration, AAA and the FMCSA, showed that car drivers were most often at-fault in those accidents.  

The results of the ATA’s analysis showed that the majority of crashes involving a car and truck are caused by the car driver.  In fact, according to the report, “car drivers were assigned factors in 81% of crashes versus 27% of truck drivers.”

Shumer has proposed a federal plan “to keep exhausted truck drivers off the road in order to prevent the far too regular occurrence of truck crashes caused by driver fatigue.” Shumer called for the DOT and the FMCSA to enact a rule that would mandate the use of electronic logging devices on all trucks so that “fatigued truckers cannot skirt the rules and inaccurately log the hours, and it is also popular with the vast majority of truckers and others who otherwise do this tracking by hand,” a press release from Shumer’s office states.

“Each year thousands of people are hurt and even killed in truck crashes in part due to overworked and fatigued drivers who shouldn’t be on the road,” said Schumer. “The feds must tackle this issue head on by quickly moving forward and requiring much-needed electronic logging devices – like black boxes on airplanes- to ensure bad actors are not on the road. What’s more, truck insurance coverage must be raised to ensure that the victims of any such tragedy are compensated after being hurt. In light of this most recent truck crash and hundreds of others, we must do everything we can to speed up these requirements.”

The second part of Shumer’s plan to put an end to fatigued driving is to increase insurance minimum coverage “so that victims of large, and particularly destructive accidents can receive the compensation and coverage that they deserve.”

The press release from Shumer’s office chided the FMCSA for “falling behind schedule” on enacting a regulation that would require the use of electronic logging devices.

MAP-21 required the FMCSA to enact an electronic logging mandate within two years.  Because of delays and extended comment periods and the required implementation grace period, the required usage of electronic logs may not be in place until the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

Currently trucks are required to carry $750,000 in minimum liability coverage for the transportation of property, and $5 million for transportation of hazardous materials. These levels have not been updated since 1985.  In 2012, the MAP-21 Transportation Bill required FMCSA to do a study into these levels and determine if they should be raised, and it also directed FMCSA to continue to look at this issue every 4 years. The results of that study were released in April of 2014.

Shumer sent a letter to the Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx urging the agency to expedite the mandated usage of electronic logging devices.

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:

Dear Secretary Foxx:

I write today concerning the rule making process for electronic logging devices (ELDs). As you know, for over 4 years the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been working to amend the Federal  Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to require on-board electronic logging devices in commercial vehicles. This rule making process has been delayed several times and has yet to result in the issuance of a final rule. I urge you to expedite the remaining needed reviews and issue a final rule as soon as possible.

ELDs are a critical tool in helping to keep our roads safer. The current paper based hours-of-service logbook system is more susceptible to manipulation and falsification. ELDs will greatly decrease bad actors ability to falsify their logbooks and will help remove the most dangerous drivers, those manipulating the rules, from the roads.

As you know, ELDs also have broad based support from both industry and safety advocates. Not only will they help increase safety, but they will also cut back on the paperwork burden that the current system places on truck drivers and the companies they work for.

While I understand the challenges with finalizing a rule of this nature, the current process has simply taken too long. I strongly urge you to expedite the issuance of a final rule that makes the use of ELDs mandatory. This action is a critical step to helping to keep our roads safer, and get those drivers and companies trying to break the rules off the road.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

CDLLife’s response:

According to a 2001-2003 FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study, fatigue only accounted for 3% truck crashes.   The study listed the following crash causation information:

-Fatigue or Illness-  3%

-Inattention – 35%

-Decision Making (Speed and aggression) – 42%

-Performance- 7%

-Vehicle Defects- 8%

-Environment (weather, etc.)- 4%

-Unknown- 1%

If all of these proposed regulations are truly about safety, why aren’t politicians and the FMCSA focusing on ways to cut down on factors that have a higher rate of causation?

For example, decision making and inattention have the highest percentages in the causation report.  OOIDA says that teaching, not technology, is the key to reducing truck accidents.  More uniform, stricter truck driver training needs to be required, and more training for the general public on how to drive safely around trucks needs to be done.

If speed and aggression account for 42% of accidents, politicians who really care about truck safety should be focusing their attention on ways to reduce speed-related accidents.

Instead, politicians jump on whatever is hot in the media.  In this case, the attention is misplaced.