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Commercial vehicles get into serious collisions with passenger vehicles every day. Texas residents end up dying or suffering serious injuries after crashes with massive commercial trucks. Many different factors contribute to these collisions, including inclement weather, aggressive driving, speeding, intoxication and distraction. Another major factor is exhaustion.

Commercial drivers may be at increased risk for exhaustion. They work long hours and may sleep in uncomfortable situations that don’t allow for optimal rest and relaxation. Strict deadlines and the need to make up time lost to weather or traffic conditions could lead commercial drivers to stay behind the wheel for longer than they should. When they choose to drive while tired, other people on the road may end up paying the price. New efforts to track driving times may help alleviate this issue.

The federal government has long limited driving hours

In order to keep the roads as safe as possible, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created limits for commercial drivers’ working times. For those carrying property, for example, a single shift can include a maximum of 11 hours of driving. Those hours must not go beyond the 14th hour after the driver came onto active duty after a 10-hour break. Drivers also can not exceed 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.

In order to track those hours, commercial drivers maintain logs that detail when they drive and when they rest. Unfortunately, these books are easily manipulated or changed, making it a simple process for a driver to break the law. Company policies may even discreetly encourage this kind of rule-breaking. That issue, along with concerns about driver and public safety, have lead to the federal requirement for electronic log books.

Electronic logs can help people show a pattern of issues

There are many befits to the new electronic logging device (ELD) program that became federally mandatory as of April 1, 2018. The first and most obvious of these is the devices’ ability to record all movement, as well as speed, location and additional information about the vehicle. In the event of a crash, those records can help show if the trucker followed all laws and safety best practices. These records are more reliable than written logs, because a trucker cannot manually change the information contained within them or carry more than one log in a vehicle.

These electronic records could help the victims of crashes caused by dangerous or exhausted commercial drivers. Electronic records could show that one driver has a habit of bending, stretching or breaking the Hours of Service rules. They could even show a company practice of overlooking such dangerous habits. As a driver of a passenger vehicle, you could very well benefit from the information an ELD gathers if you ever get into a crash caused by a commercial truck.

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Michael Zimmerman

Michael was born in Houston, Texas. His education at Baylor and Texas State Universities earned him a Bachelor of Science degree in 1987. His major was in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry. He finished his legal education at Texas Southern University in 1990, earning a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1990.

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