Truck log books keep a record of a truck driver’s hours of service. To ensure you get the maximum compensation for a trucking accident claim, having solid evidence of the other parties’ liability is crucial. A truck log book can serve as evidence, especially if it indicates that the driver exceeded the hours of service as mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and was driving while fatigued.
What Are Truck Log Books?
Truck drivers use a log book, also known as a driver’s daily log or driver’s log, to keep track of their driving activities, hours of service, and compliance with regulations. This document serves as a detailed record of a driver’s duty status, providing important information to regulatory authorities, employers, and the drivers themselves.
Purpose of Truck Log Books
Maintaining a log book is required to comply with the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations determine the maximum number of hours a driver can drive and the minimum amount of rest required. By keeping an accurate record of their activities and breaks, drivers can demonstrate their compliance with these essential safety regulations, which ultimately helps prevent fatigue-related accidents and promotes road safety.
Legal Requirements for Truck Drivers to Maintain Log Books
The extra regulations are one of the reasons why truck accident claims are more complex. The FMCSA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for regulating the trucking industry and enforcing the HOS regulations, which are a form of workplace safety for truck drivers.
To ensure compliance with the HOS requirements, drivers are required to keep a log of their driving time. All commercial trucks must have electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed that automatically track the hours of service. If the ELD stops working, drivers may still use paper logbooks for up to eight days.
The HOS requirements are crucial to prevent truck driver fatigue. The current daily HOS regulations require long-haul truckers to take a 30-minute break for every eight hours of driving, and the 11-hour driving limit must come after at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time. A minimum of 14 hours on duty is allowed, and it must come after at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
Regarding the weekly HOS regulations, the maximum number of allowable service hours per week is 70. After reaching that limit, the driver must take 34 hours of off-duty time to restart the period, which must include at least two intervals between 1:00 am and 5:00 am. The 34-hour rest period may only be used once per week or once per 168 hours.
Types of Information Recorded In Log Books
The log book tracks a driver’s on-duty driving hours, off-duty hours, and time spent in the sleeper berth over a 24-hour period. The logbook also includes important details such as the date, carrier’s name, truck number, total miles driven, starting time of the 24-hour period, origin and destination points, names of co-drivers, and a shipping manifest specifying the carrier and commodity transported. It is mandatory for all truck drivers to maintain a logbook during every trip, as per the regulations set by the FMCSA.
The Significance of Truck Log Books in Accident Claims
After a truck accident, gathering evidence is essential for proving fault and getting compensation. One such piece of evidence is the truck driver’s logbook, which can provide valuable insights. To obtain this evidence, a truck accident lawyer can work towards obtaining the logbook from the trucking company or owner-operator.
The logbook can reveal crucial information about the driver’s driving habits on the day of the accident, as well as the days and weeks leading up to it. There may be patterns of the driver violating FMCSA regulations.
The logbook may contain vital information that can indicate a violation, such as:
- Violation of HOS rules: If the log book does not show that a driver took a required break, it may indicate that the driver was too tired to drive safely and caused the accident.
- Miles covered: If the number of miles the truck driver traveled in a 24-hour period exceeds the legal limit, it may indicate that the driver did not take the required breaks despite claiming to do so.
- Inaccurate off-duty time: The amount of time the trucker claimed to be off duty in his or her log book can also help establish a violation of HOS rules.
- Incomplete inspection reports: If the log book shows incomplete or inaccurate inspection reports, it may indicate that the truck was driven when it was not safe to do so.
Proving Fault in a Truck Accident Case
To claim damages for a truck accident, you have to prove fault. The courts and insurance companies decide fault by reviewing evidence and reports to establish whether the elements of negligence can be met.
The Elements of Negligence
Negligence is composed of four elements. A truck accident lawyer will evaluate each component to establish that the truck driver was negligent.
Duty of Care
Truck accident cases begin with the concept of duty of care. This is the obligation of all drivers to ensure the safety of others on the road. It is the easiest aspect to establish in such cases, since all truck drivers owe others a duty of care due to driving on the road.
Breach of Duty
The next step is proving that the truck driver responsible for the accident breached the duty of care. There are several ways a driver can breach the duty of care on the road, including speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, and failing to yield the right of way.
For truck accidents, FMCSA regulations have been put in place to prevent truck driver fatigue. If a truck driver has violated these regulations, it becomes easier to prove that the driver was driving when he or she shouldn’t have been and therefore breached the duty of care.
It’s not sufficient to just prove that the truck driver failed to uphold the duty of care. It’s also crucial to establish a direct connection between his or her actions and the accident. For instance, merely driving for extended hours doesn’t necessarily provide sufficient grounds for legal action. However, if driving for extended hours caused driver fatigue, leading to the accident, then that would establish the necessary link.
In a negligence claim, damages represent the final stage. After the first three elements, you must demonstrate how the accident caused harm to you. Accident statistics show large trucks are still dangerous, and damages usually entail the following:
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
How Evidence Helps Prove Fault
To prove fault in a truck accident, you have to gather evidence. Evidence substantiates your claim that the truck driver was responsible for the accident. While a log book can be helpful, there are other forms of evidence that can be used to piece together the events leading up to the crash. Truck accident cases typically rely on different types of evidence, such as:
Forensic Evidence From the Truck Crash Site
An investigation should be conducted at the crash site as soon as possible to collect forensic evidence, such as skid marks, damaged road signs or guardrails, damaged foliage, and debris on the side of the road. This evidence can disappear or get cleaned up quickly.
The Semi Truck’s “Black Box” Data
Commercial trucks are equipped with “black boxes” that record various data while on the road, and this information is often crucial in investigating truck accidents.
Vehicle Inspection Reports
Inspecting each vehicle involved in a truck accident may give valuable information about the speeds, the vehicle that initiated the collision, and the force of impact. These details can be important in determining and proving who was at fault for the accident.
Driver Logs, Phone Records, and Other Documents
The driver’s logs will indicate how long he or she was driving before the collision. Phone records can show whether the driver was using a phone for texting or talking while driving. Other essential documents, such as maintenance records and shipping manifests, can be used as crucial evidence in the investigation.
Photos and Video Footage
Visual evidence, such as photos and videos, can be useful in determining who is at fault in an accident involving a truck. This footage can be captured by a traffic camera, security camera, or dash cam.
Eyewitness testimony can be another useful piece of evidence in a truck accident case. You should identify and contact any witnesses who can provide testimony in support of your claim.
Documentation of Medical Records and Expenses
To prove negligence, it is important to demonstrate that you have suffered damages. You can use medical records, bills, receipts, and invoices related to your injuries or property damage to establish both causation and the extent of your damages. This is crucial in establishing fault.