Truck driver fatigue is a huge problem in our country with the push for truckers to drive more hours without taking a break due to the shortage of truck drivers and the pressure to deliver loads more quickly. Truckers routinely drive when drowsy, or worse, when they are so tired that they fall asleep behind the wheel. The result is catastrophic accidents where victims suffer long-term injuries that can reduce their day-to-day activities and quality of life—if they survive the crash.
If a family member or you was hurt in a truck accident, trucker fatigue could have caused or contributed to it. The truck driver may have violated the federal regulations limiting the number of hours he could drive without taking a break. If you can prove his violations, this could make your claim against the trucker and trucking company stronger. Here, we discuss how to prove this so that you can receive the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Hours of Service Regulations?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacts and enforces rules that will help prevent truck accidents and keep passenger vehicle occupants who must share the roads with trucks safe. One of the rules that was enacted is the hours of service regulations, which is designed to try to reduce truck accidents caused by drowsy driving. These rules limit the number of hours a truck driver can work in a day and within a 7- or 8-day period without taking a certain amount of time off work. Some of these rules include:
- A trucker can only work 14 hours a day, with 11 hours of this time driving. After his shift ends, he must take off work 10 consecutive hours before driving again.
- If a trucker works for a trucking company that is not open 7 days a week, he can only work 60 hours during a 7-day work period.
- If the trucking company is open every day, the truck driver can work a maximum of 70 hours within an 8-day work week.
- The trucker must take 34 hours off before returning to work once he works the maximum hours for the work week.
How Can You Prove the Trucker Violated Hours of Service Regulations?
FMCSA also has enacted regulations requiring the trucking company and trucker to keep many records that can help prove the truck driver violated the hours of service regulations in causing your crash. However, locating this information could be more complicated than you may think because a trucking company or trucker may have doctored up or falsified some of these documents. Here are some records that your attorney can request that could be helpful to determine how long the trucker was really driving:
- Logbooks. Truckers are required to record their driving information in a truck driver log that could show a violation of these rules. However, the trucking company regularly reviews these logs, and the company or trucker could have made the logbook look like there were no hours of service violations. This is unfortunately common—if the logbook is not missing. However, by requesting and digging deeper into other documents, your attorney can show that these log records were falsified.
- Electronic records. Many trucks have electronic logging devices that may eventually replace paper logs. They record similar information to the logbook. While a trucker can “revise” his paper logbook, he cannot do so with the electronic logging device. By requesting the electronic records as well, your attorney may find glaring inconsistencies in the two records.
- Cellular data. Documents, such as text messages, emails, Internet activity, and GPS activity can help prove fatigue, distracted driving, and violations of the hours of service regulations. For example, if the trucker claims he was taking a break to sleep during a certain time, but the cell phone records show that he was texting or talking to the trucking company, this could establish a violation of the rules.
- Qualcomm and other GPS. A GPS system, like a Qualcomm system that many trucks utilize, will track the truck’s location and speed throughout the day. This could directly contradict the logbook and show what the trucker was really doing.
- Maintenance records. Maintenance records will show when the truck was in for maintenance or repair. If the logbook does not show the truck driver was at the repair facility or was not there long enough for the needed repairs, this suggests that the logbook and the driving hours may not be accurate.
- Pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Often a trucker will claim that he conducted a detailed pre-trip and post-trip inspection—required under other FMSCA rules. If this inspection could not have been practically done within the time period allocated in the logbook, this strongly suggests that the trucker is either not being truthful about the inspection or the number of hours he drove.
- Bills of lading. While bills of lading are not required to be time-stamped, the shipper and receiver of the goods will often mark this on the bill of lading. An attorney can compare this to the logbook for discrepancies.
- Receipts. Gas station receipts, toll booth tickets, weigh station records, and food and drink receipts are a few of the other documents that can be compared to the logbook to reveal inconsistencies and to help reenact how long the truck driver was really driving on the day of your crash.
Requesting and reviewing these documents is not something that you are qualified to do on your own. You need an experienced truck accident attorney who knows the federal regulations that should have been followed and the documents needed given the facts of your case. He will also understand the importance of sending a spoliation letter quickly to the trucking company to preserve vital evidence before it is destroyed. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation with David Brauns to learn how he can help you prove your case against the trucker and the trucking company.