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Electronic logging devices on trucks may keep roads safer

Trucks on highway-Drone video.JPG

It's just not safe to drive when you're tired.

That applies to automobile drivers and big-rig truck drivers.

It's important to note that most truck drivers drive safely.

But, slow reaction times from drowsy driving can injure and kill-- and Tarvares Floyd pays the price every single day.

Floyd shows me the medication he takes.

“It’s these, plus two more, is what I have to take on a daily basis,” Floyd said.

Floyd takes pain pills and other meds. That’s because he was hit by a truck driver who admitted he fell asleep behind the wheel.

Floyd’s car was crushed. The crash happened nearly two years ago on I-65 in North Alabama. He and his passenger could have been killed.

“Lucky?” Floyd asked. “Not to me. Blessed. Feel more blessed.”

Floyd’s passenger was his girlfriend at the time. She was injured. A legal claim against the trucking company, and driver, was settled out of court.

Nate Vanderveer is an attorney with the Farris, Riley & Pitt law firm who represented Floyd.

“They might think I can push it another hour, another two. Maybe just grab another cup of coffee, or a Red Bull, and that’s a recipe for disaster,” Vanderveer said.

Impaired driving, including fatigue, a factor in many truck and bus crashes

According to the most recent information, the federal government says impaired driving, including fatigue, was a factor in more than 12% of crashes involving large trucks or buses.

Federal law allows truckers to drive up to 11 hours during a 14-hour workday. But they’re also required to take a 30-minute break by the eighth hour of their shift, and have 10-hours off duty. A trucker who breaks those rules can be placed out of service if he’s caught.

Since the 1930’s, drivers kept paper log books to keep track of their driving and rest time. But, it was easy to cheat or make mistakes.

Electronic logging devices automatically record driving time

This database shows that log violations topped the list last year. The federal government now requires registered electronic logging devices or ELD’s for most trucks. The ELD synchronizes with the engine to automatically record driving time.

David Zuby is executive vice president for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The non-profit safety group has been fighting for ELD’s for decades.

“The thing about the ELD is that it can’t be fudged like the paper logbook can—so it increases compliance with the rules,” Zuby said.

State troopers examine digital time logs

At this weigh station in Alabama, big-rig trucks are inspected to make sure they’re not overloaded. And state troopers, like Sgt. Mark Nielson, check out the truckers to make sure they’re not impaired. Lights, tires, brakes and electronic time logs are also inspected.

“These are his logs,” Nielsen said showing me a trucker’s log books on his laptop. “This is a good thing, a safe thing. I don’t have a problem with him finishing out his route today.”

Mark Cook is an owner/operator. He says ELD’s mean less pressure from clients.

“I’ve noticed now where you say you don’t have the hours. They say ‘OK, we’ll just change your appointment,” Cook said.

Trucker Ronald Haney likes ELD’s because they’re more efficient than paper logs. And he says he doesn’t push himself past his limits.

“I’m not going to do anything illegal, or do anything that puts people at harm or me at harm,” Haney said.

Tarvares Floyd likes ELD’s too. And he has a message for truck drivers who push themselves too far.

“How do you allow yourself to be asleep and put yourself, let alone everyone else, at risk?”

The federal ELD requirement applies both to truckers and commercial bus drivers.

Meantime, companies can be fined as much as $14,739 per violation for trying to force drivers to drive more hours than they’re allowed.

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