Accidents involving semi-trucks are often catastrophic. The size and weight of the vehicle causes significant, if not fatal, damage to the other vehicle. In fact, one out of every eight truck accidents involves at least one fatality. What is the leading cause of these tragic accidents? Over-tired or fatigued drivers, that’s what. These professional drivers spend long hours each day on the road, and when they become too tired to drive they can’t operate the vehicle safely.
Federal law regulates how many hours a driver can spend behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle each day. Under current guidelines, a driver cannot spend more than 15 hours driving within a 24-hour period.1 Of those 15 hours, no more than 10 can be spent behind the wheel at any given time. Federal law requires truck drivers to maintain entries in their log book for their driving times and hours in an effort to enforce this law.
However, these log books can often be “corrected” to reflect times spent driving that are not exactly true. In some instances, drivers carry two sets of books, so in case of a problem, they can hand over the “right” one and stay out of trouble.
When Accidents Happen
When an accident occurs, the first piece of evidence that is requested is the log book. Law enforcement and attorneys will want to review the log book and check for inaccuracies and extended driving periods. Sadly, many of these log books go missing, and this evidence must be put together using dates and times of deliveries and distance traveled.
It can be calculated, however, and trucking companies or drivers who lose their log books are only delaying the inevitable.
Many companies have changed over to electronic log book entries in an effort to avoid the “lost log” book syndrome that many truck drivers suffer from when an accident occurs.
These log books are maintained by the company and not the driver, and they work from entries that are transmitted over the Internet. DOT inspectors at weigh stations can access these logs electronically to do their routine inspections. While this may seem like a solution to the problem, electronic log books have led to another problem in the trucking industry.
Drivers have been known to report one position while they are actually located at another.This not only allows them to drive longer, but it also allows them to exceed the speed limit without being tracked. Part of log book entries is determining how quickly you arrive at a destination versus the amount of miles traveled.
Drivers who doctor their log books can then have extended down time in between loads without their terminal knowing any different. That is, until the log entries are closely examined during an accident investigation. At that time, the truth always comes out.
Because federal laws regulate the trucking industry, and knowledge of the trucking industry is imperative to winning a case, anyone seeking legal representation for a truck-related accident should seek an attorney that is qualified to handle this type of case.
It’s vital to find an attorney who handles trucking accidents as a specialty or has extensive experience in this industry. You will need their knowledge and experience to effectively fight your case against the driver and the trucking company. Truck-related accidents can be horrific, and they often involve catastrophic injuries and loss of life.
It is against the law for drivers to exceed drive times, and it is negligence on the part of the trucking company to allow this to happen.
Holly Chavez is a freelance author who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and teenage son. She commuted for an hour and a half on her previous job in a minicar and always wondered if she might one day get into an accident with a big truck.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhodge/3529539861/