Engine Control Module Establishes Hours of Service Abuse/Driver Fatigue
Synopsis: The operator of a commercial tractor-trailer was involved in a serious motor vehicle incident resulting in injuries to the occupants of several passenger vehicles. After the incident, police reviewed the operator’s required logbooks and determined the driver was in compliance with the hours-of-service rule that governs the duration an operator may drive a commercial vehicle. A subsequent, independent evaluation, however, casted suspicion on that determination and led engineers to conclude otherwise.
Analysis: The incident vehicle was equipped with an electronic engine control module (ECM) that recorded not only data describing the operator’s actions such as speed and braking just prior to the incident, but overall usage of the incident tractor as well. Specifically, the ECM recorded the truck’s usage history for the three months preceding the incident, reporting the time spent driving, idling, and non-use. When compared to the driver’s hand-written logs, investigators realized numerous discrepancies.
Conclusion: In particular, the ECM provided engineers and investigators, working on behalf of the plaintiffs, to establish a pattern of abuse and disregard for the hours-of-service rule, and proved the suspected falsified logbooks. Moreover, the data contained within the ECM provided investigators the basis to relate the incident to driver fatigue and inattention resulting from prolonged operator service.