Good news for those of us who want better safety on the roads: a bipartisan bill has been introduced to the U.S. Senate to require all truckers to use electronic on-board recorders, known as EOBRs. This technology would help enforce existing regulation of how many hours truckers can drive before they are required to rest. In my view as a southern Illinois semi truck accident attorney, this bill is long overdue. We should do everything we can do to prevent overtired truckers from causing accidents, like the one last summer in Oklahoma that killed ten people.
The Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act (S. 3884), sponsored by Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, would end the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s seemingly endless equivocating over EOBRs. The National Transportation Safety Board has had EOBRs on its “Most Wanted List” of safety improvements for years, but the FMCSA has sought to require EOBRs only in trucks driven for companies with bad safety records. Under a rule put in place on April 2 of this year, companies with 10 percent or more hours of service violations are required to install EOBRs in all their vehicles for at least two years.
Hours-of-service regulations have been in place since the 1930s, but their enforcement has been difficult because paper record-keeping is up to the truckers themselves. EOBRs would automatically keep records according to a consistent standard. The tamper-resistant devices identify the person operating the truck, record driving time, provide real-time tracking of the truck’s location, provide information to law enforcement during roadside inspections and communicate with the engine’s control module. The senators pointed out that the devices also would help all companies and drivers manage their costs and risks better and improve drivers’ quality of life. In addition, they would save $60 million per year in paperwork costs. Under the CDCI Act, the Department of Transportation would have 18 months to issue regulations, which would take effect three years after the bill is enacted. The DOT also would set EOBR design and performance standards.
Unfortunately, not all truck drivers recognize the important safety and regulatory benefits of EOBRs, and some are actively fighting the CDCI Act. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has even filed a legal challenge to the FMCSA’s relatively weak rule mandating EOBRs in non-compliant carriers, arguing that it will be burdensome, expensive and invasive of drivers’ privacy. As a Missouri 18-wheeler collision attorney, I have worked with enough families who have been devastated by injuries and deaths caused by negligent, overtired truck drivers to know that any minor invasion of privacy and small cost that EOBRs would impose on truckers pales in comparison to the harm done when a 40,000-lb. truck crashes into a small car like a Ford Focus. A trucker with an EOBR gets to drive without being fatigued, and drivers of smaller vehicles don’t have to worry as much about being hit when a trucker falls asleep at the wheel. How is that anything less than a win-win situation?
Regardless of whether this bill becomes law, existing laws provide some protection for victims of negligent truckers who cause accidents. Victims or their survivors can sue truckers and trucking companies, requiring those who hurt them to pay for what they did. Victims are entitled to compensation for medical costs, funeral costs, replacement of destroyed property such as the family car, lost past and future wages, pain and suffering and more. But it’s important for victims to contact a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney right away to ensure that truckers’ insurance companies do not persuade them to sign away their rights to sue in exchange for a small sum of money. Trucking insurance companies employ people who know how to protect truckers’ and trucking companies’ interests, not victims’. That’s why victims should have their own expert representation to help them put their lives back together after a truck driver’s negligence hurt them.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent semi truck driver, please contact Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation. To set up an appointment, please contact us online or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.