Being a truck driver — whether driving a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or any other commercial truck — is a demanding job. Not only must truckers work long hours — many of them behind the wheel — but they must also meet tight deadlines and log how long they’ve been working. Unfortunately, some drivers falsify their truck driver log books, which can have devastating consequences, including causing a truck accident.
Why Are Truck Driver Log Books Needed?
Commercial truck drivers must keep track of their hours behind the wheel in a log book. This ensures they meet the strict federal laws governing how long truckers can drive in a single shift.
Some drivers may engage in false log book violations to make it look like they’ve been on the road for less time so they can make more deliveries and meet tight deadlines. However, when truck drivers are on the road longer than they’re allowed, they put themselves and other drivers at serious risk.
What Federal Regulations Govern Truck Drivers and Companies?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry and investigates trucking companies and drivers who falsify their log books. It’s also responsible for implementing and upholding its hours of service rules, which dictate allowable driving hours and aim to ensure truckers have sufficient off-time duty.
These rules, known as Hours of Service rules, are laid out in the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and state:
- Commercial truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours following a 10-hour break.
- Truckers must not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after returning to duty (following an off-duty period of 10 hours).
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for eight hours without a non-driving break of at least half an hour. This break may be taken in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or on-duty but not driving.
- Truckers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
For the first two rules, drivers are allowed to extend the 10 or 14-hour period by up to two hours if they encounter adverse driving conditions. If drivers do this, they must log the condition on their electronic logging device (ELD).
What Are the Most Common False Log Book Violations?
Drivers can have a hand in log book violations in several ways. One of the most common is not recording hours correctly. This might be a mistake, such as simply forgetting to start the timer when they begin work or accidentally keeping it running when they’re on a break. This may seem innocent enough, but it can still be dangerous. If a driver forgets to start their timer and doesn’t account for this on the road, they could work a longer shift than allowed. This is a violation of federal rules, but it could also result in a deadly accident if a driver is tired.
In another case, a trucker might not understand how to fill in their log book correctly and omit crucial information. However, truck driver log books exist for a reason, and ignorance is not a defense. Trucking companies should provide training and support, and if a truck driver still doesn’t understand how to keep this critical record, they should speak to their employer.
The other common log book violation is far more insidious: when a trucking company or truck driver intentionally engages in a false log book violation.
False Log Book Violations: Why Do Commercial Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies Do It?
Falsifying log books is a serious problem in the trucking industry, and a driver might resort to changing or omitting information from the record for many reasons.
A commercial truck driver might partake in false log book violations for the following reasons:
They’re under Pressure
Drivers are under immense pressure to meet tight deadlines. If a single delivery is delayed because of traffic or road conditions, it throws every other planned delivery off course, which can have severe consequences for a trucking company and its clients. A driver might also worry their job is at risk if they fail to meet a deadline.
If a driver is under such pressure, they might decide to work longer than allowed. This might be self-imposed pressure or direct pressure from the trucking company. On top of this, some truck drivers may decide to take drugs so they can stay awake for longer. This is no less dangerous than the alternative — driving while tired — as such drugs impair a driver’s judgment and reaction time, potentially leading to a devastating truck accident.
To Get More Work
If a truck driver or company promises to deliver goods by a specific date to obtain a contract, they may falsify the truck driver log book to reflect it — even if they know it’s unrealistic.
To Make More Money
One of the more common reasons for false log book violations is to make more money. A driver might alter their record if a truck company awards bonuses for meeting deadlines early.
To Avoid Liability
In one of the more severe log book violations, truck drivers might falsify the record if they are involved in an accident. Truckers can change the dates or times they were on the road or even where the truck was during their shift.
Trucking companies can also be liable for a truck accident, so they may also change the record or turn a blind eye to their employee doing it.
What Are the Consequences of Truck Driver Log Book Violations?
If a driver is caught falsifying their logs, they could face stiff penalties from the FMCSA, but that’s not the only consequence.
Overworked drivers are likely to be tired, increasing the risk of a truck accident. Data shows that driver fatigue is a major contributing factor in many large truck accidents. Tired truck drivers are more likely to make mistakes, whether that’s falling asleep at the wheel or not reacting in time to a hazard. In any case, this can lead to drivers losing control and causing devastating, if not fatal, motor vehicle accidents.
Just some of the most common injuries accident victims sustain in a commercial motor vehicle accident are:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Whiplash or neck and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Broken bones.
Such injuries may be minor or catastrophic, but because large trucks are so heavy — a fully loaded truck can weigh as much as 80 thousand pounds — injuries tend to be more severe. If an accident victim survives one of these horrific accidents, they may have life-changing injuries, such as a permanent disability.
What Are the Penalties for False Log Book Violations?
Whatever the reason for falsifying log books, it’s against the law and puts other drivers at risk.
If drivers falsify their log books and get caught, they could face stiff penalties from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including significant fines or a suspended commercial driver’s license. If the trucking company is also found liable — in that they knowingly allow their employees to falsify their logs — they can be fined or even shut down.
What to Do If You Think a Truck Company or Driver Has Falsified Truck Driver Log Books
If you are in a truck accident and believe a trucker or their employee has falsified their log books, you should inform your truck accident attorney.
While it can be hard to prove that manual logs have been input incorrectly, additional technology can help show when a driver was really on the road.
Driver records, GPS data, and black box data can show where a trucker was and when, whether they were speeding, and if they were working longer than allowed — even if the truck driver’s log book says otherwise. However, time is of the essence. The FMCSA mandates that trucking companies only need to retain this data for six months, after which it can be destroyed. Some truck companies may destroy or alter black box data to avoid liability and, therefore, a lawsuit.
The personal injury statute of limitations for truck accident claims is two years, which isn’t a long time, to begin with. Still, if you don’t act fast, evidence vital to your claim could be destroyed long before you start the process of claiming compensation.
If you’re in a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, the driver may have engaged in a false log book violation, and you may be entitled to significant compensation. For a free, no-obligation case review to see if you have a claim, call 855-LAW-NINJA or fill in the contact form. Our experienced truck accident attorneys in San Antonio and McAllen will fight to recover the compensation you deserve, and you won’t pay until we win.