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Trust but verify: rule on e-logs for truckers to take effect

"Trust but verify" was President Reagan's slogan for dealing with the Soviet Union on arms control negotiations. To be sure, trust is important in reaching and implementing any agreement. But it is also important to have a mechanism in place to document that the other side is complying with the terms.

For truck drivers, this mechanism has historically been a paper logbook. Since 1938, drivers have been required to record their hours there, so that they do not drive more hours in a day or week than regulations allow. Those regulations are designed to prevent drivers from becoming overly fatigued - and causing terrible truck accidents.

Unfortunately, the paper logbook entries were easy to falsify. They depended too much on trust, with too little ability to verify.

But now, finally, after years of negotiations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adopted a final rule on required electronic logging devices (ELDs). In this post, we will update you on that development.

What will the new rule require?

By December 18, 2017, ELD devices will be required for all truckers operating in the U.S. This includes Canadian and Mexican truckers who work here. ELDs will also be required for bus drivers who currently use paper logs.

The devices will automatically record not only driving time, but also other information. The other information includes mileage covered, locations visited and hours that the engine was in use.

Many trucking companies have already been using ELDs voluntarily. But the new rule will make their use mandatory and standardize the requirements. Companies that are already using a previous electronic system, called automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) will be grandfathered in under the new rule until December 16, 2019.

The rule is very detailed - it comes to 516 pages - because there are various technological platforms that can potentially be used to comply with it. Smartphones are one of those potential platforms, as are other wireless devices.

Disagreement among truckers

Truckers don't all agree about the value or fairness of the new rule. The American Trucking Association has long advocated for an ELD rule. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has long opposed federal efforts to require ELDs.

OOIDSA has expressed concern that ELDs could be used to bully or harass drivers, making them even fatigued, not less. The FMCSA says the new rule responds to those concerns, such as by having a mute button on the device to prevent a driver in the sleeping birth from being awakened.

There is an exemption from the rule for trucks with a model year of 2000 or earlier. Those trucks don't have the electronic engine systems needed to be compatible with ELDs.

Preventing and responding to accidents

Federal regulators estimate that the ELD rule will save 26 lives a year. It should also prevent 562 injuries.

But there are still far too many crashes caused by commercial vehicles. And when the commercial vehicles are large, those accidents are often truly terrible.

If your family has been touched by such a tragedy, it's important to find a skilled legal advocate in whom to place your trust. Talking this step through trust will help verify that your rights are respected.

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