Truck Drivers Exempted from Hours of Service Rules During Coronavirus Pandemic
Biometric sensors could help warn truck drivers before they become too fatigued, according to an article in The New York Times. Fatigued driving has caused a number of catastrophic or fatal truck accidents. However, new technologies are becoming available to alert drowsy truck drivers, sometimes, even before they become tired. Biometric sensors are getting lighter, cheaper and more accurate and new software systems can connect drivers and vehicle data. The feedback loops these systems create can make roads safer for everyone.
How Tech Devices Can Help
SmartCap, an Australian company, is making a number of industry safety products and is now focused on a new law that requires installation of electronic logging devices on most commercial trucks, which is meant to help ensure that drivers don’t drive more than what is legally allowed under the federal Hours of Service rules and that they take mandatory breaks. These laws exist to prevent fatigued truck driving, which most industry experts and safety advocates agree, is the most underreported problem in the trucking industry and causes about 70 percent of accidents involving large trucks or big rigs.
New wearable technology monitors drivers in a subtle way and comes in a variety of forms such as caps, vests, wristbands and eyewear. For example, the glasses made by Optalert measure the driver’s eye blinking with an LED light monitor. When the driver’s eyelids stay down too long, he or she gets alerted. Real-time measurements are displayed on a dash-mounted device with alarms and notifications. Another device, a headset for example, detects head bobs and jerks – signs that the driver is nodding off.
The SmartCap device is a headband that fits into truck drivers’ caps, beanies or other headgear. This band essentially measures electronic brain waves and translates them to a measure of alertness or fatigue. The driver is notified if he or she appears drowsy. These alerts are meant to encourage drivers to find their own best way to do what they need to do to get back to their alert state. They may decide to stop and have a snack, park in a safe place and take a nap or walk or get a cup of coffee.
Responsibility on Drivers and Companies
While these tech devices are valuable aids when it comes to alerting drivers when they become drowsy or are about to become drowsy, it is still the truck driver’s responsibility to ensure that he or she stops and gets rest or does what it takes to get back to an alert or vigilant state. We know that tough deadlines and unrealistic schedules make it difficult for drivers to stop and get the rest they need and this is what increases the risk of a horrific truck accident.
In cases where accidents are caused by fatigued truck drivers, the occupants of the smaller passenger vehicles are the ones to suffer the most serious injuries and damages. It is the responsibility of trucking companies and their drivers to ensure that they are alert and fresh when they get on the road. As California truck accident lawyers, we believe that while devices can help, the push to put safety first should really come from the drivers and their employers.