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Mandate: Commercial truckers must use electronic logging devices by 2017

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 14th, 2016

FMSCA final rule requires ELDs to replace paper logs

electronic logging devices commercial trucks, image

I was president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group from 2007-08, and even then, lawyers and consumer safety groups were pushing the commercial transportation industry to adopt electronic logs to replace paper log books, or “lie books,” as they’re often derisively referred as because of how common it is to lie and violate hours of service rules.

Years later, I’m pleased to report that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently adopted a Final Rule that will require electronic logging devices (ELDs) to replace the paper log books.

ELD technology aims to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations, thus preventing truck accidents.

As of December 18, 2017, the rule will replace automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) with ELDs over a four-year implementation period.

What is an ELD?

Electronic logging devices will replace on-duty/off-duty logs for truck and bus drivers that are traditionally recorded by pencil and paper—an outdated method that dates back to 1938. ELDs will bring logging records into the modern age by automatically recording driving time. They are also able to monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information.

The ELD Final Rule permits the use of Smartphones and other wireless devices as ELDs, so long as they satisfy technical specifications, are certified, and are listed on an FMCSA website. Canadian – and Mexican – domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating on U.S. roadways.

The benefits

There are several benefits that stem from requiring commercial truck and bus companies to use ELDs:

  • It will allow roadside safety inspectors to more easily unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.
  • The ELD Final Rule is estimated to save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles, according to the FMSCA.
  • ELDs will make it more difficult for drivers to falsify their HOS (hours of service), in turn, reducing the number of crashes caused by fatigued truck drivers.
  • It will also increase the efficiency of roadside law enforcement personnel in reviewing driver records.
  • Strict protections are included in the ELD rule that will protect commercial drivers from harassment.
  • The use of electronic logging devices will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion – largely by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork.

Where our Roundtable attorneys stand on the issue of ELDs

We believe this new safety rule is an important step in the right direction. It will make our roads and highways more safe for all of us. It’s a win for commercial truck drivers — many of whom tell our attorneys they’re being pressured by their own companies to violate hours of service rules, and then threatened with being fired if they don’t. It’s also a win for the more than 200 million licensed drivers in the United States today.

For every 100 million miles driven on U.S. road ways, there are 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries caused by big rig trucks. Requiring technology to ensure that commercial truck drivers comply with federal and state hours-of-service rules (almost all states have adopted the federal motor carrier rules in their entirety) will help prevent many of these crashes and will certainly save lives and prevent accidents.

Related info:

FMSCA changes its position on hand held devices using electronic software

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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