U.S. State Senator Charles Schumer called upon the Department of Transportation in June 2014 to require that trucking companies install electronic monitoring devices in all trucks to accurately record the number of hours a driver has been on the road. Schumer stated that such a measure would prevent trucking accidents caused by overworked and tired drivers. Currently regulations prevent truck drivers from working more than a certain number of hours and require truckers to take breaks. Under these existing regulations, drivers record the number of hours they drive in handwritten logbooks which can be easily falsified. According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one-third of truck drivers admitted to falsifying their logbooks, which are often referred to in the trucking industry as “comic books” because they are often doctored. Electronic monitoring devices, which are already in use in many European countries, are difficult to tamper with and accurately log how many hours a trucker has driven.
In 2012, trucks were involved in 333,000 accidents. Trucking crashes resulted in 3,921 fatalities during the same time period and were responsible for 104,000 injuries. One in 10 highway deaths involved a large truck. An IIHS study revealed that truckers who drive more than eight hours per day are twice as likely to be involved in an accident. Commenting on these statistics, Senator Schumer remarked, “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.”
Regulations and laws enacted in 2004 require that truckers only drive 60 hours over a period of seven days. However, a “restart” measure allows drivers to get back on the road after being off for 34 hours. Drivers can only “restart” once per week. In addition, drivers must take a 10 hour break after driving for 11 hours; moreover, drivers are required to take a 30 minute break after driving for eight hours. In 2010, the federal government issued a ruling requiring trucking companies to install electronic monitoring devices in tractor trailers. Truckers contested this regulation in court because they feared companies would use such devices to harass drivers. A court ruled in the truckers’ favor. In March 2014, the federal government proposed a measure that would prohibit such harassment, but it has yet to become enacted and enforced.
Ann McCartt, the IIHS vice president for research, stated that electronic monitoring devices are the only effective way to enforce laws regulating how long truckers can drive during a certain time period. She remarked, “Studies show that fatigue is a significant factor in truck crashes…Without electronic recorders the rule can’t be enforced effectively.”
Schumer’s call upon the DOT to require such regulations comes in response to a June 2014 trucking accident that severely injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan. Crash investigators stated that the truck driver had not slept in 24 hours.