Commercial truck drivers are subject to federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The purpose of the HOS regulations is to prevent truck drivers from working long hours, subjecting themselves to drowsiness and other potentially dangerous physiological conditions that could lead to serious accidents.
While most truckers are honest, hard-working people, some manipulate and adjust their logbooks to avoid having to comply with the HOS regulations. This illegal practice can have serious consequences.
Why and How Truck Drivers Manipulate Logbooks
Truck drivers manipulate their logbooks for plenty of reasons. Unfortunately, whether financially motivated or stress induced, logbook manipulation is a fairly common practice. Truckers may:
- Create fake logbooks. Due to the frequency of logbook manipulation, truckers’ logbooks are generally under heavy scrutiny. Thus, some truckers maintain phony logbooks that include realistic travel routes, gas use, and times between destinations. This method is most commonly used with paper logbooks, and is diminishing due to the rise in electronic logging.
- Enter incorrect information. Oftentimes, truckers will fill out their logbooks late and leave out critical details. This method—called backtracking—gives truckers the freedom to manipulate their numbers, so that they don’t accidentally enter suspicious log information. Some truckers will even include disingenuous details into their logging system to make the information seem more believable.
Truckers attempt to skirt the HOS regulations in the first place due to:
- Shipping delays. Delays in shipping, or changes in shipping routes, can change a driver’s schedule. In response, some drivers falsify their logbooks to maintain their original schedules, despite the additional time and distance imposed by the changes.
- Free time. Some truckers manipulate their logbooks to spend more free time at home. They know that if they drive for longer periods of time, they will arrive home ahead of schedule.
- More money. Most truckers are paid either by the mile or by a percentage of the gross total of the products that they are carrying. The further they drive each day, and the sooner they arrive at their destination, the more money they will earn.
- Failure to keep logs. Some truckers adjust their logbook information simply because they forgot to log some of their hours. While not intentionally misleading, this practice can lead to truckers driving for longer periods of time than they realize.
Despite safety precautions like the HOS regulations, trucking accidents are common on our nation’s highways. In New York alone, 11,452 accidents involved large trucks in 2013. Furthermore, between 2009 and 2015, the number of large truck crashes nationwide increased by 62 percent.
These statistics make it clear that trucking is a dangerous occupation. In fact, truckers are 12 times more likely to die on the job than the average American worker. However, truck accidents pose a danger to more than just truckers; in 2012, for each large truck driver death, six other persons died in trucking accidents.
According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver error caused 87 percent of large truck crashes between April 2001 and December 2003. Vehicle errors (for example, mechanical issues) and dangerous environments (for example, snow, rain, wind, etc.) accounted for the remaining 13 percent.
Where Logbooks Come into Play
As evidenced by the aforementioned statistics, driver error causes the majority of large truck accidents. Truckers who fail to comply with the HOS regulations and drive for long periods of time are subjecting themselves to serious danger due to drowsiness. Truckers may not accurately determine whether they are too tired to drive, making compliance with the HOS regulations, which are based on scientific studies, important. Ensuring truckers’ compliance with the law was a contributing factor to the introduction of logbooks.
Truckers who manipulate their logbooks may experience high levels of fatigue, particularly if they exceed their legally mandated driving time. According to an FMCSA study, more than 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents were fatigued at the time of the crash.
Because semi trucks can weigh more than 80,000 pounds, they pose significant dangers on the road. Truckers, therefore, must abide by federal regulations that impose limits on their driving and maintain accurate logbooks.
If You’re in a Trucking Incident
If you are in an accident with a big rig, semi, or other large truck, the trucker’s logbook may form a critical piece of evidence if you decide to pursue a claim against the truck driver or trucking company. If the trucker failed to abide by the HOS regulations and falsified breaks, timing, or any other piece of their logbook records, driver fatigue may have played a role in the accident. Furthermore, in some cases, trucking companies have allowed their truck drivers to falsify records to increase earnings for both parties. If this occurred, the logbook is a crucial piece of evidence for your claim.
Hiring an experienced trucking accident lawyer will ensure that you obtain and are able to promptly review any logbook involved in your accident.
Injured in a Trucking Accident? Contact a New York City Car/Truck Accident Lawyer
Sadly, thousands of large truck accidents will likely occur this year in New York City. Many of the people involved in these accidents will suffer extensive property damage, serious injuries, and even death.
Fortunately, Ivan M. Diamond is an experienced personal injury attorney who provides compassionate representation to people who were hurt in large truck accidents. Mr. Diamond has helped numerous truck accident victims recover compensation for the full cost of their injuries. Call the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond today at (718) 588-2000, or contact Mr. Diamond online, to schedule a free case review.