Driver fatigue received increased attention after comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured in a January 2014 incident when the limousine he was riding in was struck by a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. tractor trailer whose driver failed to notice traffic slowing ahead. Reports later indicated the truck driver had driven 12-hours to work before starting his 14-hour shift. In the wake of this highly publicized crash, the insurance industry is pushing that regulators begin requiring both electronic driver logs as well as speed regulators to improve safety on America’s highways. A recent article published in Business Insurance explains the reasons insurers are pushing heightened requirements in an effort to increase safety and prevent accidents. (Mahoney, Donna, Electronic Trucker Logs Put Brakes on Fatigue, Speed, Business Insurance, September 14, 2015.)
According to the article, an April 2014 study by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found trucks with electronic logs were involved in 11.7% fewer crashes than trucks with drivers who utilized paper logs. According to Rich Bleser, the senior vice president and fleet specialty practice leader at Marsh Risk Consulting in Milwaukee, “[t]he [electronic logging device] mandate is estimated (by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration) to affect 3 million vehicles and help prevent, in their estimation, approximately 20 fatalities, and close to 430 injuries each year for a safety benefit of $830 million.” The article points out that electronic logging devices can remove doubt about possible hours of service violations (i.e. incomplete or improper loggin) after accidents.
Further, the article also highlights that federal agencies have considered speed limiters or governors to cap the maximum speed allowed for commercial trucks. A number of companies and the American Trucking Associations have come out in favor of the proposals, noting speed is indicated as the critical pre-crash event 18% of the time. The industry’s response, however, is not unanimous. Scott Grenerth, regulatory affairs director of the Grain Valley, Missouri-based Owner-Operator Individual Drivers Association, noted that “[s]peed limiters cause the traffic to just not flow. You’d be driving along and there’s a truck only allowed to go 55 mph and, in some states, the speed limit is up to 75 or 80.” While the insurance industry is in favor of these measures that are designed to improve safety (and reduce accident claims), it is not surprising to see that smaller companies and independent owner-operators resist new technology that increases the cost of doing business.
By Larry Hall