Electronic trucking logs to be required

A new rule announced in December 2015 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is slated to take effect in the following February. The rule requires that commercial truck and bus drivers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country log their driving hours electronically. This will replace the paper-driven system that has been in place since 1938 and is expected to save at least $1 billion in reduced paperwork as well. Although there have been prior efforts to implement electronic tracking methods, court challenges have prevented implementation until this point.

Although the regulation will be effective in the early part of 2016, companies will have two years to comply with the need for electronic monitoring devices in their rigs. Some companies may have already installed electronic equipment that does not necessarily meet the technical requirements established in the regulation. These companies will have four years to bring their equipment up to the new standards. One of the most significant complaints against the new equipment requirements has been made by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association based on the concern that the technology has not been proven.

An important benefit of the new federal trucking regulation is anticipated to be a reduction in truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers. The FMCSA estimates that more than 560 injuries and 25 deaths will be prevented each year as a result of the new rule. Companies may be able to use smartphones or other familiar electronic devices to manage the monitoring requirements as long as the devices are consistent with the standards imposed in the new regulation.

The consequences of a truck accident can be significant, especially if a fatigued driver is at the wheel. If a driver has failed to adhere to rest requirements related to the operation of a truck, there could be significant liabilities for not only the driver but also for the trucking company when a personal injury lawsuit filed by an attorney on behalf of an injured victim results in a verdict for the plaintiff.