Commercial Driver Logs Role in an Accident Lawsuit
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) limit the number of hours a motor carrier may permit or allow a truck driver to drive. The purpose of driver logs is to prevent accidents caused by truck driver fatigue.
Legal Requirements for Maintaining Driver Logs
This goal is accomplished by limiting the number of driving hours per day, and the number of driving and working hours per week. To insure a driver and motor carrier are in compliance with these hours of service (HOS) rules, drivers are required to maintain a record of duty status – or more commonly referred to as driver logs.
A driver who fails to properly maintain his logs or, even worse, intentionally falsifies them, can suffer severe consequences including criminal prosecution.
Falsification of Driver Logs
In the past, one of the first steps taken by a personal injury attorney following an accident with a commercial motor vehicle was to obtain the driver’s paper logs. Invariably there were errors (some innocent, some not) which represented a discrepancy between what the driver reported he was doing and what he was actually doing.
In those instances, the driver would log being at a certain location at a certain time when the supporting documents (i.e., fuel receipts, toll tickets, etc.) indisputably showed the driver was nowhere close to that location.
Motor carriers were not able to monitor their drivers in real time as they had to rely on auditing logs which were prepared days earlier. That forced the motor carrier to act retroactively to identify violations, not proactively.
When the logs were falsified, the personal injury attorney would argue that the driver was over hours and therefore fatigued at the time he caused the wreck. That then led to a punitive damage claim against the driver and the motor carrier.
These issues were so common that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took steps to address the shortcomings associated with paper logs – the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Rule.
Electronic Logging Devices
An ELD is a technology that automatically records a driver’s driving time and other hours-of-service data.
For instance, an ELD monitors a vehicle’s engine to capture data on whether the engine is running, whether the vehicle is moving, miles driven, and duration of engine operation (engine hours).
Additionally, EDLs are tied to global positioning software (GPS) so that a driver’s location is automatically recorded at the same time the driver enters his logging data. As of December 16, 2019, all motor carriers and their drivers are required to use an ELD or an AOBRD (automatic on-board recording device).
While no technology is foolproof, it is generally believed that drivers falsifying their logbooks so they can drive longer will be a relic of days gone by.
That is a good thing for everyone.
Commercial Drivers are Held to a Higher Standard
More drivers in compliance with the hours of service regulations should lead to less fatigued drivers. That is beneficial not only for the drivers who often pushed (or were pushed by their company) beyond their limits, but also for the motoring public who were often victims of fatigued drivers.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that motor vehicle carriers and their drivers are held to a higher standard for good reason. The laws and requirements for a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) following an accident – including driver log review, review of pre-trip inspection reports, drug and alcohol testing – are in place to protect the public.
If you have been involved in an accident with truck driver or commercial motor vehicle, it is vital that you contact a legal professional who specializes in truck accident law to make certain you have someone acting in your best interest. Just the same as insurance and trucking companies have people acting in their best interest.