New Jersey Transit has come under fire – again – for hours-of-service violations that could be making public transportation avenues less safe. An inspection by federal regulators has discovered hundreds of potential hours-of-service violations within New Jersey Transit. These include falsified data logs and long shifts in violation of federal rules.
Inspectors discovered 246 alleged instances of improper documentation. These included alterations of 42 signed records and 34 instances of insufficient rest times. A spokesperson for the agency claimed that most of these errors were clerical. The spokesperson mentioned that the agency is considering moving to an electronic data logging system to keep the logs accurate.
Disciplinary action has been taken against at least one employee and proceedings have begun against 35 others. Federal investigators have requested two years of conductors’ and engineers’ work schedules to look for any widespread signs of violations.
Hours-of-Service Violations Outside of Public Transportation
Hours-of-service violations plague not only the public transit industry, but also the trucking industry. Truckers are often paid by miles driven or cargo loads delivered. As such, there is a built-in incentive for truckers to drive faster and longer in order to make more money. This creates a dangerous situation where drivers can be subjected to driver fatigue as well as unsafe driving behaviors, both of which create an increased risk of truck accidents. Adding to this driver fatigue is the potential for drivers to have undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, a factor in the Hoboken train crash last year and countless truck accidents over the last few years.
Fortunately, the 2016 fiscal year saw a significant drop of 13.7 percent in hours-of-service violations, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In the past two years, hours-of-service violations have decreased by almost one quarter. It’s a step in the right direction. However, more efforts are needed to keep unsafe truck drivers and public transit operators off of the roads and tracks. With the electronic data logging mandate coming into effect at the end of this year, it is likely that we will see this trend continue.