Electronic on-board recording devices could reduce semi truck accidents

Accidents involving semi-trucks are the most serious on roadways across the country and in Tennessee. Crashes often result in severe injuries, including broken bones, damage to the spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Often these accidents prove fatal.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating a recent semi-truck crash that resulted in two deaths. A tractor trailer hit the back of a car. The impact caused both vehicles to careen across several lanes of traffic and crash into a concrete median.

The cause is unknown; however, semi trucks are not able to stop as quickly as passenger vehicles. On an interstate, it takes approximately 110 yards for a semi-truck travelling at 70 m.p.h. to come to a stop. That is about the distance of a football field. An abrupt change in speed by the lead vehicle or truck driver fatigue could have contributed to the accident.

Regulations seek to reduce drowsy driver accidents

The agency that regulates interstate traffic is called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In an effort to reduce the number of semi truck accidents caused by sleep-deprived drivers, the agency enacted and recently updated their hours-of-service rules.

Truck drivers must take a "34-hour restart," including two overnights (1 a.m. to 5 a.m. of home terminal time), between workweeks. In addition, drivers need to take a 30-minute break after driving eight hours. A commercial truck driver cannot log more than 11 hour behind the wheel in one day.

These rules have been enforced through logbooks. While some companies have transitioned to electronic tracking, almost three million truck drivers still use paper log books. Drivers can easily lie or make mistake on paper logbooks. For example, a compliance manager at C.R. England found errors in 55 to 67 percent of log books during annual inspections.

Better reporting measures

Because of the problems with paper logbooks, the FMCSA has proposed requiring electronic on-board recording devices on all interstate commercial trucks and buses. The measure would improve the quality of logbook data and make it harder for drivers to misrepresent their time on the roads. An analysis completed by the agency found the proposed regulation would prevent about 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year.

The proposal moved the EOBR requirement one step closer to becoming a requirement. Many companies have installed the recording devices in advance of the regulations to better monitor their fleets. Some companies are already using data to improve driving habits and identify drowsy driving.

In any motor vehicle accident, finding the cause can be difficult. Driving while dozing off is negligent conduct, but can be hard to prove. There is no test to prove sleepiness similar to impaired driving. Seeking the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney is one way to uncover negligent conduct and ensure you receive fair compensation for an injury.