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New rule requires truck driver hours to be logged electronically

Nebraska residents may be aware that federal regulations restrict the amount of time that truck and bus drivers can spend behind the wheel. The regulations are in place to prevent accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles caused by fatigued drivers, but accident investigators have long complained that the paper logs that used by drivers to keep track of their hours can be easily falsified or altered.

Electronic devices are more difficult to tamper with, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that a December 2015 change in the rules will make them the required way for about 3 million bus and truck drivers to keep track of their hours worked and miles driven. The electronic devices record the vehicle's position and movement as well as the length of time that the engine has been in use and the amount of distance the vehicle has covered.

Truck owners and the operators of small fleets of commercial vehicles have resisted the change to electronic vehicle monitoring. They cite concerns over costs and also claim that the data recorded will be available to their customers and used to apply pressure to keep trucks moving. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association even filed a lawsuit seeking to block the new FMCSA regulation. However, the FMCSA believes that electronic vehicle monitoring will save about $1 billion each year due to reduced paperwork and about 26 lives each year due to fewer commercial vehicle accidents.

Accidents involving a fatigued truck driver often result in death or catastrophic injuries for other road users, and both drivers and their employers could face civil and criminal sanctions if it is discovered that federal safety regulations were violated. Personal injury attorneys may review accident reports and witness accounts and file lawsuits on behalf of accident victims when there are indications that a truck driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

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