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New rule requires electronic logs for truckers

The federal government is introducing a new rule to its commercial driving regulations that may lead to heightened accountability for New Jersey truckers and their employers. Once the rule is in effect, approximately 3 million truckers will be expected to adopt electronic timekeeping to clock their driving hours.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has indicated that the new rule may prevent approximately 26 deaths and 562 injuries each year. It calls for the use of devices which monitor a truck's engine hours and movement to automatically record actual travel time. Switching from paper timekeeping to these devices might thwart some operators' efforts to tamper with time records to circumvent the existing federal limits on hours of service.

The new rule requiring these or devices that provide the same function will be effective in February 2016. Most affected companies and drivers will have a two-year period to comply, and those that are already using timekeeping software will have four years to meet the new compliance standards. Although some commercial drivers have voiced concerns that their contracting companies would use the data from electronic logs to pressure them into working their maximum hours, the FMCSA states that the new rule includes provisions to protect them against such harassment.

Excessive work hours can severely impact any tractor-trailer driver's ability to maintain safety, leading to potentially catastrophic accidents. When seeking damages from a trucking company on behalf of a person who has been injured in such an accident, an attorney might use an electronic log such as the ones that are now legally mandated as evidence that a driver was overworked prior to the collision.

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