There are many contributing factors to fatal collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. Alcohol and drug consumption by either party, as well as distraction, can significantly increase the risk of a crash. Those risks are well-known, which is why federal law restricts trucks from texting while driving and most states, including Texas, have more strict blood alcohol limits for commercial drivers. One risk factor that often gets overlooked by the general population, however, is fatigued or exhausted driving.
Driving while tired can increase the time it takes to respond to changes in traffic or road situations. It can make it harder for a driver to focus on the task at hand. It can also even lead to someone falling asleep at the wheel, which puts everyone on the road at serious risk. When that driver has control of a massive commercial truck, tragedy could follow. That’s why there are federal laws in place to limit how long commercial drivers can work.
Hours of Service rules aim to protect people on the road
Left unregulated, commercial drivers and their employers could make decisions about driving times and schedules that put the public at risk in the favor of profit. In order to reduce the potential for exhaustion-related commercial crashes, the Hours of Service regulations create limits for how long someone may legally operate a commercial vehicle.
For example, a commercial driver cannot continue driving past the 14th hour after his or her last 10-hour break. During those 14 hours, the driver can only actively drive for up to 11 total hours. Over a seven consecutive day period, a trucker can drive no more than 60 hours. That limit increases to 70 hours in an eight-day period. After that, a 34 hour break is necessary to “reset” the work clock. Drivers keep a log book to record their breaks and driving time, but many have falsified or changed records or even gone so far as to carry two different log books to avoid enforcement actions.
As of April 1, truckers must use an electronic log
To push back against these issues, federal law now mandates that all commercial trucks have an electronic logging device (ELD). These devices have GPS and the ability to track when the truck is in motion and stopped. The end result is a completely accurate record of how long a trucker drives his or her vehicle.
Many in the industry want to fight the requirement for ELDs, but it is easy for most people to see how they benefit the public. They make it harder for truckers to make decisions that endanger the public without consequence. They also create a record that can help show a pattern of behavior by one commercial driver or company in the wake of an exhaustion-related crash.