Investigating Techniques – Truck Drivers Logs
San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers » Investigating Techniques – Truck Drivers Logs
As part of a Commercial Vehicle Accident Investigation, Driver’s Logs can be Crucial in Proving Negligence
Just as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation require that trucking companies compile and retain employee records on their drivers and maintenance records on their fleets, the drivers of the commercial trucks must maintain certain records as well.
Per the FMCSA and the DOT, commercial truck drivers must maintain logs for each trucking run they make. The truck drivers logs must keep track of the driver’s hours of service, the driver’s duty status, the mechanical check list for the truck the driver performs, notations of mechanical issues and any repairs done on the truck, and other job related data. The failure to maintain these records properly often has a direct correlation to the accidents a commercial truck driver will cause.
The truck driver’s logs are not only a means for the trucking companies and the government to monitor driver safety. The truck driver’s logs can provide powerful insight into the events surrounding an accident and can assist with accident reconstruction. The commercial trucking companies and their drivers are only required to keep this data for a certain period of time, so after you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, time can work against your case. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood that the crucial data needed for your case will be deleted or lost. This is why it is important that after you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, you have someone working for you that knows how to secure possible evidence contained in the truck driver’s logs. It is vital to preserve it before that evidence is lost or destroyed. Our lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have over twenty years litigating commercial truck accident claims and we can work for you.
What the Driver’s Logs Contain
Commercial truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation to maintain detailed logs of their activities while they are on the road. The logs should contain data related to the trucker and data related to the vehicle the trucker is driving. Each 24 hour-period the commercial truck driver is supposed to document the following information in their logs:
The complete name of the location where their duty status has changed. This needs to include the complete city/town and state information.
The total time the driver spent on duty driving, the time spent on duty but not driving, and the time he spent asleep in truck’s back berth if applicable.
The total number of miles the driver has driven in the last 24 hour period.
The name of the trucking company and the tractor trailer information.
The names of any co-drivers assisting in the last 24 hour period.
Once the driver has completed the log they are to make a copy and forward the original to the trucking company. The driver is required to keep 7 consecutive days of driver’s logs on them at all times. The trucking company is required to keep these logs on file for at least 6 months. The driver’s logs are important because they are used to track the driver’s time on the road and to make sure the driver is getting adequate rest between driving shifts. By law, a truck driver can only drive a certain number of hours before they are required to take rest. This is done to prevent driver fatigue and ensure that the truck driver is alert when he or she is driving the tractor trailer. Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents involving tractor-trailers, so adhering to the hours limitation is of utmost importance.
Limitation of Driving Hours
In an effort to prevent driver fatigue and decrease the likelihood of accidents, there are federal and state laws in place that limit the number of consecutive hours a truck driver may drive in a 24 hour period. These laws are referred to as hours of service regulations. Currently the hours of service regulations state that a driver can drive up to 11 consecutive hours within a 14 hour time period after they have had 10 consecutive hours off duty. What this boils down to is that a driver can have only 14 hours on duty within a 24-hour time period.
The hours of service regulations do not just apply per 24-hour time period. There are hours of service regulations related to consecutive days on duty as well. Per the hours of service regulations a truck driver cannot drive at all when the driver has been on duty for 60 hours in a consecutive 7 day period if the trucking company is not open for business every day of the week. Additionally, a driver cannot drive if they have been on duty for 70 hours in a consecutive 8 day period if the trucking company is open for business every day of the week. The time period resets when the driver has been off duty for 34 consecutive hours.
It is also important to remember that “on duty” does not mean just the time the driver is actually driving. The hours of service regulations factors in the time the driver spends working or beings read to start working. This covers the time when the driver is waiting on dispatch instructions, when the truck is being inspected for mechanical and maintenance issues, when the truck’s cargo is being loaded or unloaded – even if the driver themselves is not doing the loading or unloading – and any other time the driver spends in the truck where he or she is not sleeping. The on duty time is important to understand because it comes into play often, especially when a driver is working with a co-driver.
Usually a driver works with a co-driver so the trip can continue forward even during break times. One driver will driver while the other sleeps in the berth and vice versa to cut down on time in transit for their cargo. This is done so both drivers are able to get ample rest but not jeopardize their ability to get the cargo to its destination on time. However, when the drivers do not follow the sleeping schedule the hours on duty are impacted and could violate the hours of service regulations. As mentioned above “on duty” time includes any time the driver is in the truck but is not sleeping. So for example if the co-driver is not sleeping in the back berth but is sitting up front with the driver and not sleeping, he or she is technically on duty and this time applies toward their hours of service even though they are not driving. This is an issue because when it is their time to drive again they may not be rested enough to fight off driver fatigue.
Falsified Drivers Logs and Accidents
The hours of service regulations were put in place to help ensure that truck drivers take adequate rest and are able to be alert when driving the tractor-trailers we see on the highways every day. One of the most common causes of accidents between tractor-trailers and other motorists on the road is driver fatigue. When drivers are tired from spending too many hours driving they are more likely to make costly and dangerous mistakes. A fatigued driver is more likely to make errors when changing lanes, failing to check their blind spots, driving too closely behind another vehicle or by swerving in and out of traffic. To compound this issue some drivers even resort to pills and other stimulants to stay awake and fight their body’s natural impulse to want rest. These stimulants usually do more harm than good and the truck driver is further impaired from being able to fully concentrate on the road, on the other drivers, and making sound decisions as they maneuver the tractor-trailer truck through highway traffic.
Truck drivers attempt to drive too many hours for a variety of reasons. Obviously there is the financial incentive that comes with working more hours. Additionally they may have pressure from the trucking company to work beyond the scope of the hours of service regulations as well. The trucking companies may push their drivers to work beyond the legal limits to get more loads delivered in less time. Even though this is illegal and puts other drivers risk, it still happens. But regardless of the reason a driver is tempted or pressured to drive more hours than the hours of service regulations allow, doing so is still illegal and often results in accidents.
While a driver is illegally working beyond the hours of service regulations they are also probably falsifying their drivers’ logs as well. The drivers falsify their logs to cover up the fact they have been driving beyond the hours of service regulations. This can have fatal consequences and the falsified logs are of little use after an accident. For example, in 2009 a tractor trailer driver caused a multiple-car crash during rush hour traffic that resulted in a fatality of one motorist and the serious injury of another. In the investigation that followed it was discovered that the driver falsified his drivers’ logs at least 15 times over the two month period leading up to the accident. He did so to cover up the fact he had been driving beyond the hours of service. He was charged criminally for the falsified records and was fined and sentenced to 18 months in prison. This is only one example of many involving truck drivers and accidents.
Even if the driver does not admit to falsifying the drivers logs there are still ways of determining that this has happened. Our lawyers know how to piece together what has happened in an accident with a tractor trailer truck, even when the records have been falsified. For example, if you are rear ended by a tractor trailer truck and the review of the logs the driver supplies indicates the brakes had been checked by the driver and were in working mechanical order, we know to compare those logs with the logs the maintenance logs that the company is required to maintain on its vehicle. If the driver’s assessment of the brakes does not match up with the maintenance records, the falsification is evident and is directly linked to the accident.
There are other ways our lawyers can discover when the driver has falsified the logs. We know how to gather the driver’s gas and lodging receipts, bills of lading, weigh station information and even the driver’s cell phone records. Separately, these pieces of information may not demonstrate much, but when considered together they can paint an accurate picture of the events surrounding your accident with the tractor trailer. These are just a few of the things we can examine when working on your case. If this has happened to you, you need an experienced lawyer on your side with the know-how and experience with using the right investigative techniques to help prove the truck driver’s and trucking company’s liability for your injuries.
In many modern tractor trailer trucks the trucking companies can install electronic data recorders that monitor and record the truck’s systems and information. The recorders gather information on the truck’s speed, braking and any actions taken by the driver. These recorders are similar to what we know as black boxes on an airplane. Just like in a plane crash one of the first things investigators look for is the black box, our lawyers would do the same for a tractor trailer truck’s data recorder. Just as our lawyers can take the paper receipts and documents from the truck driver’s trip and compare them with the driver’s logs that we submitted, the electronic data can be compared with it as well. The comparison can reveal if the driver’s records are falsified and if the driver’s work beyond the hours of service regulations led caused the accident that injured you.
Did You Know?
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Falsified Driver Records Require Extensive Investigation
Falsified driver logs can pose a huge problem when trying to establish the evidence you need to prove the driver’s liability for the accident that left you injured and in pain. Knowing what information to gather to compare against these records can he hard to understand and even hard to get a hold of. This is why trying to do this alone is inadvisable. The attorneys at our Law Offices have years of experience with litigating commercial truck accident claims and we know how to use investigative techniques to discover and preserve the evidence necessary for your case to be successful. Call us. Let us take on the trucking company and their negligent driver so you can focus on the most important thing – getting better.