Tracking Truckers: Industry Trending Towards "Electronic Monitoring"

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 25, 2013 Updated Oct 25, 2013 at 5:41 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Using technology to try and ensure truckers are not a threat to road safety because of exhaustion.

It’s a story that’s timely, following criminal charges announced this week in a fatal semi crash in Allen County.

The Department of Transportation is making it a priority that truckers get their rest.

There are new rules all the time, regulating drive time and down time.

Electronic log books are helping make sure companies and drivers don't cut corners and jeopardize public safety.

July 2012, police say Ohio trucker Gary Golay never hit the brakes when, at 59 miles per hour, he slammed into four vehicles stopped at a U.S. 30 stoplight outside Fort Wayne.

A four-year old girl died, five others were sent to the hospital.

Golay faces a dozen criminal charges, and he's accused of falsifying log books to hide the fact he'd been driving too many hours without getting proper rest.

" That's all we worry about is, can the driver physically and safely get this done in the allotted time," said Kevin Waters, the terminal manager for Ruan Trucking, with offices in Fort Wayne.

Ruan has no connection to the fatal accident on U.S. 30, but it does use an Internet based system to know what its trucks are doing in the field.

The company's drivers don't make entries with pen and paper, but on a computer screen in the cab.

" From off duty to on duty, and then say okay, they've just gone on duty," Waters said, as he touched a training screen in his office.

Waters doesn’t have to leave his chair to see where each driver is located, how many hours and miles they've traveled, and whether they are due for a rest.

In the rigs, if a trucker on break tries to come back on too soon...

" It'll say are you sure? It'll communicate that fact that, hey, maybe your break isn't finished at this point," Waters said.

State Police who are out patrolling the roadways come up on a lot of accidents.

One of the first things they do when they work a crash involving a truck is ask to see the log books.

Drivers on duty when they should be resting are asking for trouble, because fatigued drivers are trouble for everybody else on the road.

" Especially when you're driving a 60,000 plus pound vehicle, driving it 60, 65 miles per hour, absolutely, we want to make sure that those drivers have all their faculties at top peak performance," said Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz.

New safety rules kicked in this summer, including one that requires truckers to take a 30-minute break for every 8 hours behind the wheel.

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