New York Senator Charles Schumer urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to require commercial truck drivers to use electronic “black boxes” to track the number of hours they are on the road.
Commercial truck drivers have been under scrutiny since a horrific collision between a Wal-Mart tractor trailer and a limousine bus carrying comedian Tracy Morgan on June 7, 2014. Morgan and two other passengers were critically injured, and Morgan’s mentor, James McNair, was killed.
The commercial truck black box requirement was signed into law in 2012, but the federal government has not forced companies to install them. In 2012, there were approximately 333,000 crashes involving commercial trucks, causing 3,921 deaths and more than 104,000 injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Senator Schumer called for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to finalize the implementation of the black box requirement. He also contends that the federal Department of Transportation should be permitted to study, and if warranted, increase the level of coverage trucking companies are required to hold so that victims of collisions involving commercial trucks can receive appropriate levels of compensation. He believes increasing the trucking company’s liability would promote a stronger culture of safety.
The DOT and FMCSA have researched the effect of electronic logging devices on truck accident rates. A study revealed that trucks equipped with electronic recorders had total crash and preventable crash rates that were significantly lower than the rates of trucks without the devices. In addition to lowering crashes, the drivers of trucks with the devices had a 53% lower chance of a driving-related hour-of-service violation, and a 49 % lower non-driving related hours-of-service violation risk than non-equipped trucks.
Schumer supported his stance by noting that many truck drivers are in support of the electronic black boxes, including the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the American Trucking Association.