Stories circulate among over-the-road drivers, telling tales of rogue operators rolling for 18 hours and more without stopping for rest or for any other reason. Creating a dangerous mix of human limitations and the massive potential for an 18-wheeler to cause damage, this practice creates considerable risk.
To prevent fatigue related accidents, laws exist with regard to time spent behind the wheel.
Truck drivers must document all activity related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, and must furnish these documents upon request by police and transportation officials. This requirement helps to ensure compliance with regulations created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration governing restrictions of time behind the wheel imposed on drivers. These time restrictions were created to prevent fatigue and resultant accidents associated with excessive driving time.
Limits on Drive Time
The work day of a commercial driver is capped at 14 hours. Once a driver begins work for the day, all work related activities must cease within 14 hours. After this time, no work may be legally conducted by the driver, even if for a different employer, until the driver observes a 10-hour rest period. For example, a driver is not allowed to work a 14-hour shift driving a truck, then go to work as a bartender at a tavern, until 10 hours has passed.
Within those 14 hours, a transportation worker may drive no more than 11 cumulative hours, and once driving starts, the operator must observe a rest period of at least 30 minutes from driving after no more than eight hours from the time driving is started.
Within any eight-day period, a driver is allowed to work no more than 70 hours and within a seven-day period, a driver may legally work no more than 60 hours. Records for the previous seven days must be in the possession of all commercial drivers while operating a truck.
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Types of Logs
Some trucking companies use electronic instruments to satisfy federal logging requirements. These records are created and stored automatically by the electronic reading of the truck’s activities in conjunction with locational data communicated by GPS. Electronic logging devices print out, email, or fax copies of daily logs when required. Electronic logs are created automatically with no driver involvement, and therefore they are incapable of being falsified. Paper logs, on the other hand, are written instruments that readily lend themselves to manipulation by cheating drivers.
One technique to cheat drive time limits involves the condensing of times recorded when experiencing slow-downs in traffic. Upon stopping after periods of traffic congestion, a driver will use a navigation device to calculate drive times from the most recent stopping point to the current location under normal, rapidly flowing traffic conditions. The driver will then record the shorter, theoretical time rather than the actual time spent driving in congested traffic, thereby preserving more of the 11 cumulative hours allowed within one workday.
Savvy drivers self-impose limits on the falsification of logs based on the understanding that investigation by police can easily uncover unsophisticated fraud. If a driver shows a radically more recent beginning time for a portion of the day’s driving, a law enforcement officer may simply analyze the time – distance ratio and determine that either the log is false or the driver has been speeding. For example, if a driver shows an origin for a portion of the day’s ride that is 83 miles away from the current location along with a start time for that portion exactly one hour prior, the officer has cause to determine that either the log is false or the driver was speeding at 83 miles per hour since leaving the last stop. In scenarios like this, police can issue tickets for speeding or false log keeping.
The most common technique used to circumvent drive time restrictions is the keeping of two paper logs, one of which is false and shows a more recent start to the day’s work. The false log is handed over to officials if the request arises after a certain time during the course of the driver’s working shift. This allows the driver to operate several hours longer while still providing a seemingly compliant record to law enforcement officers. If never challenged, a driver may, at the end of his work day, simply show whatever start and end times he wishes in perceived compliance with FMCSA regulations. This technique is more difficult than it might appear because logs from each day must match seamlessly with those of the days prior.
Telltale Signs of Falsified Logs
Log books must be current and reflect all activity up to the very last action executed by the driver. Failure to maintain current status is not only a violation of logging requirements, but also a possible indicator of a falsified log. Discrepancies between the logs of driving team partners or between the logs of sequential days are also signs of possible fraudulent recording.
In cases involving death, injury, or high dollar amounts of property damage, the cell phone of a driver can be tracked to verify the logs kept. Drivers have received jail time, fines, or both as a result of evidence demonstrating that actual spatial-temporal data differs from that shown in the logs. In other words, the pinging of the cell phone reveals the falsification of the logbooks.
Get Legal Representation to Demand Compensation
Motor carriers are liable for the activities of the drivers they employ. Trucking companies have hard working lawyers on their side to blur the line between falsified log and accurate log. A skilled and experienced accident attorney has the ability to detect the signs of a falsified log and to demonstrate that falsity in court. An experienced accident attorney can shed light on the malfeasance of the defendant and link it to the harm of his client. If you or a loved one has suffered injury or property damage in a truck-related accident, call the experienced Marietta car accident injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C. for a confidential consultation.