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Driver fatigue is a major contributor to highway traffic accidents and among some of the most affected individuals are truck drivers. Long-haul routes and trucking logs often put pressure on drivers to stay behind the wheel and get the job done, long after their mental stamina has waned. In a move to increase highway safety, earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued enhanced regulations aimed at ensuring drivers are well-rested when they are behind the wheel. And now, Congress is considering a bill that would put “black box”-like devices into trucks to make sure that drivers are complying.

The “black box” proposal is part of the transportation spending bill and it would mandate that recorders be placed in trucks to ensure that drivers are not exceeding the hours-of-service rules. These devices would simply track when the truck is or isn’t moving, providing an electronic record of how many hours a driver was working. While some trucking organizations have spoken out against the proposal, citing unnecessary expense and invasion of privacy, many others are supporting it as both a safety initiative and an improved record-keeping mechanism.

Those in favor of the proposal have indicated that current tracking systems—through paper logs—make it possible for drivers to manipulate records and drive illegally in excess of the hours-of-service limitations. A recording device that tracks vehicle movement would indicate precisely how many consecutive hours a driver was working. The hope is that such recording would increase compliance with regulations on working hours, which in turn would decrease accidents on the road.

Certainly not all issues of over-worked truck drivers and fatigue behind the wheel will be solved with the installation of a simple recording device. But if passed, it has the potentially to contribute greatly to highway safety and regulatory compliance.

Lindsay Rakers, 2012

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