A recent South Carolina news report has raised some questions about how closely trucking companies regulate their employees’ and drivers’ compliance with various safe practices. The central feature of the story was the claim of a big rig driver from Gaston, S.C. He claimed that his shipping company had fired him because he flatly refused to violate the hours of service regulations in order to make a delivery deadline. He further alleged that practices of falsifying logbooks in order to appear not to violate the regulations are common throughout the industry.
The hours of service regulations are a series of guidelines requiring drivers to get a certain amount of sleep if they’re on the road. Driving a big rig is a tiring process, thanks to a combination of long hours, elevated attention in order to make sure no surrounding vehicles are harmed, generally poor diet, managing a large vehicle and road hypnosis. The regulations help prevent fatigue-related accidents that claim multiple lives every year and cause extensive property damage to boot.
However, the driver in the report claims that drivers operating on about four hours of sleep is the industry standard. If the allegations of fraud are correct, a number of questions arise. Is it possible to charge the offenders with a conspiracy to defraud regulators? Reckless endangerment also springs to mind.
Solutions proposed so far seem to revolve around an onboard recording device similar to an aircraft’s black box. Unlike a company-maintained logbook, this kind of recorder is independently wired into the engine, very much like an odometer. It therefore cannot readily be tampered with, and any tampering would be quickly evident. Thus compliance could be insured for a minimum of cost and time, and people could have one more measure of safety when driving on the road with these potentially dangerous, massive vehicles.