Good news for truck safety advocates…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has finally initiated a rule that requires an estimated three million truck and bus drivers to electronically record the amount of time they spend behind the wheel. The new rule was implemented in an effort to curb truck driver fatigue, which is a common factor in truck accidents caused by driver error.

Since 1938, commercial truck drivers have been required to keep paper logs monitoring the amount of hours they spend behind the wheel. But according to truck safety advocates and accident investigators, truck drivers have long been able to easily change these paper logs in order to evade hours of service requirements (truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off).

With electronic logging devices, hours behind the wheel are automatically recorded by way of monitoring a truck’s engine hours, movement, miles driven, and location information. The new rule also sets performance and design standards for the electronic log devices themselves. Aside from utilizing technology to bring log books out of the stone age, the electronic logs will allow for roadside inspectors to easily find and cite drivers that have been behind the wheel for too long, putting their lives and the lives of other motorists at risk.

Congress ordered the Department of Transportation to develop regulations requiring electronic log devices back in 1995, but the NHTSA failed to act until a federal appeals court ordered the agency to do so in a 2004 lawsuit concerning truck driver hours of service requirements.

The agency’s first actual attempt at implementing the rule requiring electronic log devices was overturned in a different federal appeals court decision in 2011. Congress again ordered the FMCSA to issue the rule with a deadline of October 2013. Roughly 20 years later, here we are (finally).

Truck drivers that own their truck and trucking companies with small fleets oppose the new safety measure. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which sued the FMCSA in an effort to block the new rule, said in a statement that it questions “the need for truckers to spend money on an unproven technology that is no more effective than paper logs when it comes to safety and hours-of-service compliance.”

According to FMCSA estimates, the electronic log devices will result in a net savings of $1 billion a year, mostly via drastic reductions in paperwork. Most importantly, the agency estimates that roughly 26 deaths and 562 injuries stemming from accidents will be prevented every year.

The new safety rule exempts tow truck drivers, drivers that use time cards to monitor their hours, and trucks and buses that were manufactured before the year 2000. Truck drivers in Canada and Mexico who operate on U.S. roads will also be subjected to the electronic log device requirement.

The new rule will go into effect in the next 60 days. Trucking companies will have two years after the rule takes effect to start using the devices. If they have previously installed electronic log devices that meet current standards, but don’t meet all of the requirements of the new rule, they can continue to use the devices for four years. After that time, the devices will need to be in compliance. The rule also permits smart phones and other wireless devices to be used as electronic log devices as long as they satisfy technical standards and are approved by the agency.

Fiery FedEx Truck Accident Leaves One Injured

South Sacramento, California – December 10, 2015

A double trailer FedEx truck crossed over the concrete median of Interstate 5 in South Sacramento, California early Thursday morning, sparking a fiery crash that left one person dead. The fatal truck accident, which happened at around 6:15 a.m. near Seamas Avenue, left northbound lanes completely blocked.

According to an official with the California Highway Patrol, the FedEx truck was heading south when the vehicle crossed over the concrete median into northbound traffic. That’s when the FedEx truck struck a northbound pickup truck, killing the driver. The pickup truck was all but destroyed in the crash.

Officials have not yet identified the pickup truck driver. What has been reported is that the victim was a 45-year-old male from Elk Grove. Weather at the time of the fatal truck accident was rainy, according to reports. According to KCRA, traffic on the northbound side of Interstate 5 was backed up for roughly seven miles as investigators tried to piece together what caused the early morning accident.

An investigation is ongoing.

Big Rig Accident in Lawndale Kills Motorist

Lawndale, California December 9, 2015

In other California truck accident news, a fatal collision in the southbound lanes of the 405 Freeway in Lawndale left one person dead on early Wednesday morning. The fatal accident was reported at around 4:15 a.m. near Hawthorne Boulevard.

Initial reports from the California Highway Patrol indicate that a passenger vehicle and a truck collided for unknown reasons. Officials have not ruled out the possibility that other vehicles may have been involved.

According to KTLA 5, emergency responders arrived at the scene of the truck accident to find a body lying in traffic lanes. It is unclear whether the victim was ejected from the vehicle or was outside of the vehicle when the accident happened.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating.

Peterbilt Recalls Tractor Trailers Over Tire and Speed Safety Concerns

December 4, 2015

Peterbilt, one of the nation’s foremost truck manufacturers, has issued a recall for more than 1,600 of the company’s trucks over concerns that the vehicles have been programmed to travel as much as 10 miles-per-hour over speed rating of the tires. The affected trucks are used primarily for hauling passenger cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledged the Peterbilt truck recall on November 30, roughly a year after the agency made inquiries into the truck specifications in late 2014. Peterbilt, an arm of Paccar Inc., has pledged to reprogram the affected trucks to limit top speeds to match the speed rating of the tires.

According to the NHTSA, the affected Peterbilt trucks come stocked with Michelin tires that are rated at 65 miles-per-hour, but Peterbilt told the agency that some of the trucks have been programmed to allow speeds of more than 75 miles-per-hour.

The discrepancy, according to the agency, could result in premature tire failure on the front or steer axle under certain operating conditions. If this were to happen, the trucks could crash. The NHTSA did investigate a number of truck accidents last year that involved instances of the Michelin tires in question allegedly failing. None of the accidents resulted in injuries or death, but the agency found that the tire failures were likely aided by speed limits in states where trucks are allowed to drive in excess of 75 miles-per-hour.

The affected trucks were produced between January and October of 2008. Peterbilt has begun to make changes at its plant to manually limit maximum road speed before the vehicles are sold. In April, Peterbilt verified with the agency that newer model trucks that have tires rated below 75 miles-per-hour have decals on the sun visors to notify drivers of the issue.

Peterbilt has estimated that the recall will affect 1,652 vehicles.