In three decades of litigating truck accident cases including many truck accidents on I10 out of Houston, I’m continuously amazed at how truck drivers and sometimes trucking companies can cover up abuses of the regulatory process by allowing or creating fake log books.
Sometimes the safety violation is inadvertent, and sometimes the safety violations are blatant and intended to circumvent the law.
The hours of service regulations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Section 395.8 set forth the minimum standards for keeping log books.
What Log Books Record
Drivers are required to record three different areas of activity on a daily basis.
- Sleeper berth,
- Driving and
- On duty and not driving.
Section 395.8 of the FMCSR sets forth the maximum on duty and driving time for truck drivers. The limitations on driver’s ability to be on the job or the road are intended to reduce the number of fatigued drivers causing crashes.
In the past are two main ways truck drivers cheated on their logbooks.
Some truck drivers are very conscious of the need to keep log books in case they are pulled over for an unexpected inspection. If the driver intends to violate the law, keeping duplicate sets of logbooks is one method utilized by drivers.
FILLING OUT THE LOG BOOKS LATER
Filling out logs days later is the most used method for circumventing the hours of service regulations required by law.
A truck driver may choose to fill out the logbook when necessary for company purposes, and they do so sometimes on a weekly basis. This backtrack method ensures that the driver never discloses to the company a violation of the hours of service regulations.
The Reasons Truckers Cheat on Their Log Books.
- Shipping delays – delays by a shipper or the recipient of a load often set a truck driver back from his schedule and make his planned route unfeasible. When faced with unexpected delays and other places to go, violating the hours of service regulations allow the driver to continue as planned.
- Wanting to be home – many drivers much prefer their beds to that of a sleeper berth or hotel room. For that reason, some drivers choose to drive more than the allowed hours to spend more time at home. Many trucking companies recognize this problem in the industry and are taking steps to make truck driving more attractive to a home life.
- Pay-most truck drivers are paid by the mile and not by the hours worked. The more miles a driver can travel in one day the more pay the driver will take home for that day’s work. Risking an infraction often is chosen to maximize compensation needed for one’s family.
- Failing to keep daily logs – failing to keep logs as required leads to drivers looking back and filling out the log to comply with the regulations and not the actual driving.
How Truck Drivers get Caught
- A serious accident– once there is a serious injury accident or a wrongful death crash, an investigation by law enforcement or trucking accident attorneys usually reveals whether or not a driver has cheated on his logbooks.
One of the main ways a driver gets caught after a crash is by comparing the driver’s logbooks with the shipping documents and also the black-box data that is ever more readily available on newer trucks.
- Electronic logs – electronic logbooks are now required for most over the road truck drivers. The new electronic log rules were enacted to help protect truck drivers and the motoring public from hours of service violations by truck drivers. While they are undoubtedly methods that drivers can use to circumvent the electronic recording devices, the fact is that implementation of this rule will reduce the number of hours of service violations.
- Unexpected inspections– inspections can lead to hours of service violation simply because the driver is not ready for anyone to scrutinize his logbooks. Inspections also lead to a very high number of vehicles placed out of service due to mechanical issues.
The New ELD Rules
Electronic logging devices are now mandatory for the majority of truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. The rules are intended to make log entries quicker, more accurate and easier to share. Additionally, the rules will serve an important function of helping to prevent cheating on log books.
Most of the time, when a truck driver is found falsifying his log books, the motor carrier takes action to prevent the infraction from occurring again. Sometimes though a motor carrier can be focused on the bottom line and not on the safety regulations and fail to enforce hours of service rules. Usually, this will be smaller trucking companies.
There are a few exemptions from the compliance of the new electronic logging device rule for drivers of older vehicles and those who are not frequently required to maintain a log.
A recent study of the benefits of electronic hours of service recording was conclusive on the benefits for both compliance and safety.