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Court Ruling May Stall Requirement For Electronic Recorders In Commercial Trucks

Given the number of commercial trucks on the roads of New Orleans, it is inevitable that some drivers will violate the rules regarding when they can drive. Personal injury accidents caused by large trucks driven by fatigued drivers could be substantially reduced if all drivers would follow federal regulations regarding limiting hours on the road and necessary rest time.

To help address the danger of driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a regulation in 2010 that required all commercial trucks operated by companies with poor work hour compliance records to be fitted with electronic devices that would automatically track when the truck was on the road. This device would replace the log book traditionally used by drivers to record their work hours. Log books rely upon drivers honestly recording their information and, as a result, are easily falsified. This new regulation was scheduled to take effect in June of 2012.

Unfortunately, a federal appeals court has determined that the regulation as currently written is invalid because it does not address the possibility of the devices being used to harass drivers. The court’s decision was a victory for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – a group of commercial truck drivers who own their own trucks – which had argued that the FMCSA had a legal obligation to address potential harassment of drivers but failed to do so. Although it was opposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, not all truck drivers were actually against the regulation: the American Trucking Association – the industry’s largest trade association – supported it.

In a related matter, the FMCSA proposed another regulation in February of this year that would require electronic recorders not just for companies with poor compliance records, but also for every long-haul commercial truck in the country. As a result, the court’s ruling may not just impact the regulation of companies with poor compliance records, it may also delay the implementation of this second and more universal regulation while the FMCSA determines if it must revamp the proposed regulation to survive court scrutiny. The FMCSA had proposed this regulation because it would put an end to drivers falsifying work hour records and – most likely – reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents involving commercial trucks.

If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck driver, we would be happy to help you. Please call us at 504-581-6411 or 855-GERTLER.