June 19, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer ( D-NY) is urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action to address trucker fatigue, which was a factor in the crash on a New Jersey highway that killed one and injured four people, including actor Tracy Morgan.
Schumer, is calling on federal transportation officials to step up efforts requiring trucking companies to use electronic logging devices, similar to "black boxes" found in planes, to track the time truckers are on the road. According to Schumer, groups representing truckers support installing the black boxes, including the American Trucking Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The DOT initially launched the electronic logging device rulemaking process four years ago, Schumer said, but it has been delayed. A transportation bill approved in 2012 required the agency to develop a rule for black boxes by October 2013 and implement it within two years.
Just three months ago, the transportation department unveiled their proposed electronic logging device rule — five months behind schedule — and in May, the agency extended a public comment period by 30 days to seek feedback on the rule.
The rule could be finalized by the end of this year or early 2015. If implemented, trucks would be required to have black boxes by the end of 2016 or early 2017.
Schumer also called on the U.S. DOT to increase the level of minimum liability coverage trucking companies are required to hold. The current level is $750,000 for transporting property and $5 million for transporting hazardous materials. Both requirements have been unchanged since 1985, according to Schumer.
"Each year thousands of people are hurt and even killed in truck crashes in part due to overworked and fatigued drivers who shouldn't be on the road," said Schumer. "The feds must tackle this issue head-on by quickly moving forward and requiring much-needed electronic logging devices — like black boxes on airplanes — to ensure bad actors are not on the road."
"What's more, truck insurance coverage must be raised to ensure that the victims of any such tragedy are compensated after being hurt. In light of this most recent truck crash and hundreds of others, we must do everything we can to speed up these requirements."
While the crash involving Morgan has brought more attention to trucker fatigue, it's not a new issue. A 2006 study found 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents were fatigued at the time of the collisions. Large trucks were involved in 333,000 crashes in 2012. In those accidents, 3,921 people died and more than 104,000 were injured.