Big Rigs, Logbooks, and Safety Risks

Texas Trucker Recording in Logbook Below Steering WheelTruckers must keep track of the number of hours they drive. Before the electronic log mandate took effect at the federal level in 2017, truckers would keep paper logs or some form of electronic log. Both were easily manipulated. Under federal rules, truckers are allowed to drive a certain number of hours and then must be off duty for a certain number of hours. However, truckers also have to meet deadlines, and their timing can be disrupted by weather, traffic, on-loading and off-loading issues, and or any number of other types of delay. Truckers who rig logbooks and drive longer shifts than they are supposed to are probably driving tired. And, the more tired a trucker (or any driver) is when driving, the more likely it is that they will get into an accident.

Logbook Requirements

Not only must a truck driver keep track of the hours they spend driving, but they must also keep track of:

  • Off-duty hours
  • Hours spent in their truck’s sleeper berth
  • Hours actually driving; and
  • Hours that they are on-duty but are not driving

In all of these categories, a trucker must comply with the federal hours of service mandate that dictates how long a driver may be on-duty without a break. While interstate truckers must have had an ELD device installed by December 2017, truckers who drive only in Texas are not required to have ELDs installed until December 2019. Truckers who don’t have an ELD installed are much more easily able to fudge their logs.

To get around working only the hours dictated by the hours of service mandate, truckers sometimes keep two logbooks—one for inspections and one for their own records. Drivers have also been known to wait until the end of the week to fill out their logbooks—that way, they can fudge their numbers so that it appears that they complied with the hours of service mandate. Since drivers are paid by the mile driven and not time spent in their truck, sitting in a three-hour traffic jam can drastically reduce a driver’s pay per hour of work.

Reasons to Skew Logbooks

There are many reasons truckers might skew their logbooks. Of course, not all truckers would do this—most kept honest records. But those that do choose to skew logbooks might do so to make up for time:

  • Wasted sitting in traffic jams
  • Wasted for waiting for someone to off-load or on-load the truck
  • For having to drive slower due to inclement weather conditions
  • Because the driver was going to miss a deadline
  • Because the driver had been on the road for several days and was ready to get back home and sleep in their own bed.

Hours of Service Rules

Truckers must follow federal hours of service rules. This means that a driver must:

  • Abide by an 11-hour driving limit. And, a driver can only drive up to 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Once a driver goes on duty, they must start counting the hours. After their 14th consecutive hour on duty, a driver must stop driving. Thus, even though the driver may only have spent five hours actually driving, if they were on duty for the previous nine hours, the driver must stop driving for 10 consecutive hours.
  • Once eight hours have passed, a long-haul driver must take a break for at least 30 minutes. The driver may take the 30-minute break any time during the eight hours.
  • A driver may only drive for a total of 70 hours in eight consecutive days. The driver is required to take 34 hours off after 8 days. Thus, if a driver is on a trip that takes 10 days round-trip, they are required to stop for 34 hours after the eighth day of the trip.

While these rules are in place to keep everyone on the roads safe, they sometimes delay deliveries. However, data from an ELD is nearly impossible to skew because it takes its information directly from the truck’s computer. Truckers with ELDs are forced to abide by the hours of service rules, which hopefully means the roads will be safer.

Safety Regulations

In addition to the hours of service rules, truckers must abide by several types of safety regulations. These include regulations imposed by:

  • State and federal departments of transportation
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • The Federal Highway Administration
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration
  • The Maritime Administration
  • The Federal Railroad Administration
  • The Transport Security Administration
  • Other state and federal regulating agencies

These agencies impose safety regulations to keep the roads safe. Under these rules, trucks are inspected regularly. Often, trucks are stopped on the road so that officials can inspect the truck for safety violations such as broken lights, and for load violations such as a load that is too heavy or not properly strapped.

Because of the size and weight of trucks and their loads, accidents involving trucks are often more catastrophic. Thus, regulating agencies impose more rules on trucks than on regular passenger vehicles.

Tangling With a Big Rig

Anyone who is in an accident with a big rig should seek medical attention right away, even if they do not feel like they have been injured. Injuries can show up hours or days later. A truck accident lawyer can help victims of truck accidents navigate the insurance process to make sure that they get the care they need. Most truckers are covered by more than one insurance policy. Their policies may include:

  • The driver’s personal insurance company
  • The truck operator’s business insurance
  • The truck owner’s insurance
  • Insurance on the cargo
  • The dispatcher’s insurance
  • Other insurance companies, depending on the trucking company setup

For More Information

If you have had an accident or lost a loved one in an accident with a big rig, call a truck accident lawyer for more information. Contact the legal team at George Salinas Injury Lawyers online or call our office in San Antonio at (210) 944-8584 for a free consultation to determine the best path forward for your case.

Phone 210-225-0909