According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 30 to 40 percent of trucking accidents are the result of driver fatigue. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also found that hours-of-service violations and logbook out-of-service violations increased the risks for truck driver fault and truck involvement in traffic crashes.
In line with Comprehensive Safety Analysis mandates, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) required companies that habitually violated hours-of-service standards to install electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs). In February 2011, the agency expanded this compliance rule to include a majority of other commercial carriers.
According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue, or drowsy driving, kills 1,550 people each year and contributes to 71,000 driver fatigue injuries. Commercial drivers' long hours result in sleep deprivation, and disruption of normal sleep cycles produces fatigue.
In conjunction with impaired driving educational initiatives, the FMCSA believed that technology was necessary to tackle monitoring and enforcement issues. EOBRs are digital devices that record vehicle operation time. The goal of an EOBR is to eliminate the need for manual driver logs, to serve as a monitoring and compliance tool for companies and to record information in a format that can be easily distributed and shared.
According to the federal government, the newly expanded rule will affect approximately 500,000 carriers and could require installation of up to 3.4 million devices in trucks and other commercial motor vehicles. Under the new proposal, non-compliant carriers and drivers risk stiff civil penalties and negative carrier safety fitness ratings.
While response from the trucking industry remains mixed, the Truckload Carriers Association recently offered unconditional support for the new rule. Compliance with the current rule affecting habitual offenders is expected to take effect on June 4, 2012. The newer, proposed rule will not fully impact the trucking industry until some later date, however.
Because trucks account for almost 11 percent of our nation's motor vehicle crash deaths but only four percent of registered vehicles, the FMSCA has taken steps to improve safety and trucking industry accountability. With the newly proposed EOBR rules, the agency is on track to making roads safer and saving lives.
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