A trucking accident can be terrifying. Commercial vehicles like semi-trucks and tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. When a large commercial vehicle collides with a car, the results are often catastrophic.
Because the trucking industry is so competitive, trucking companies and the drivers they employ compete to provide the fastest delivery at the lowest price. This means that truckers are pushed to drive long hours, sometimes in violation of hours of service requirements. Truck drivers who are overtired may experience delayed reaction time, which increases the risk of a catastrophic crash that can injure or kill other drivers on the road.
To address this problem, new technologies are being used to monitor driver behaviors. This information can be used to provide a clearer picture of driver behavior in the moments, hours, and days before a crash, and can be vital in proving liability in a truck accident case.
FMCSA Mandates Use of ELD to Ensure Compliance with Truck Safety Laws
Commercial vehicles are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which oversees compliance with trucking laws and, among other things, requires that truck drivers maintain a record of their activities, rest periods, and the hours spent on all their trips.
Historically this information was contained in paper log books, which were easily altered so that a truck driver could drive in excess of hours of service requirements, but appear to be in compliance if records were requested by law enforcement.
In 2015, the FMCSA passed a rule mandating the use of ELD’s, and fleets are required to comply no later than December 2019.
ELD’s are used to electronically record information that had previously been recorded in a paper logbook.
Today, truck drivers and the companies that employ them are required to use ELD’s to track Hours of Service, Driver Inspection Reports, and information on vehicle speed, idling, and hard braking. Many of these systems integrate mapping and routing functions which can help drivers navigate construction zones and avoid high-traffic areas, and also provides a record of where a driver has been, and when.
What Is an ELD and How Does it Work?
ELD’s allow drivers and fleets to automatically record a driver's duty status and any changes in status, as well as the amount of time they operate the vehicle, as required by the FMCSA. An ELD also allows drivers to immediately present Automatic On Board Recording Device (AOBRD) information to law enforcement, if requested.
An ELD records driver behavior including:
Total driving hours
Hours worked in the last 7 days
Total number of miles covered in the last 24 hours
The vehicle’s daily inspection report
In addition, the FMCSA requires that an ELD must:
Be connected to the truck’s engine to record whether the vehicle is in motion
Allow the driver to select whether the driver is On-duty, Off-duty, or On-Duty-Not-Driving; drive segments must be selected based on vehicle movement
Graphically display a Record of Duty Status so a driver can quickly see hours in a day
Provide data in a standardized format to facilitate easy transmission to law enforcement
Be certified as meeting proper specifications
ELD information must be provided to law enforcement upon request. Truck drivers must be able to provide Hours of Service and Duty Status information for the previous 7 days, plus the current day.
Using an ELD to Establish Liability
An experienced truck accident lawyer can use “black box” information contained in an ELD record to help establish liability in a trucking case.
ELD information can be used to prove that a driver violated Hours of Service requirements by driving without taking required rest breaks, and was driving while overtired. In some cases, this information can even be used to prove that the trucking company that employed the driver knew the driver was out of compliance, or even encouraged the driver to violate hours of service rules.
ELD information can also be used to show that a driver or trucking company ignored potential vehicle defects, or failed to properly maintain the vehicle. This information can be used to prove that the driver or the trucking company were negligent, and that this negligent behavior caused the crash.
ELD information can also be used to show that a truck driver was speeding in the moments leading up to a crash. ELD’s record data about hard braking, which can be used to show that a driver has a tendency to tailgate, to speed, or has a habit of not allowing appropriate time and distance to brake properly.
In some cases, by obtaining ELD information from a driver’s previous employers, ELD information can be used to show that a trucking company hired a bad driver.
In addition to ELD information, an experienced trucking accident lawyer will seek to establish liability using other evidence which may include:
Drug and alcohol test results
Fuel logs and receipts
Communication records with dispatchers
Weigh station bills
Act Quickly to Preserve Evidence
There is so much more information available in a truck accident case than there is in a typical car wreck. This information can be used to establish liability on the part of the driver or the trucking company, and to identify other defendants, develop various theories of liability, and defend against allegations that you were partially at fault. However, trucking companies are only required to maintain ELD information for six months. This means that if you wait to hire a lawyer, information that is critical to your case may have been lost or destroyed.
To preserve this evidence, you must act quickly and hire a trucking accident attorney as soon as possible.
Robenalt Law Fights for Trucking Accident Victims
If you were injured or someone you care about was killed in a trucking accident, work with an experienced Ohio trucking accident lawyer who will fight for your rights, and for the compensation that you and your family need and deserve to protect your financial future.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent trucking companies and truck drivers.
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