In the United States, truck drivers are required to maintain a logbook tracking their hours while on the road. These logbooks are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In these logbooks, drivers are required to catalog their hours on and off the road. The purpose is to ensure that truck drivers are getting enough rest and are not driving for extended periods of time, which may result in drowsy driving. However, many drivers falsify logbook entries, either at the request of a trucking company or for their own personal gain. This leads to fatigued drivers operating heavy machinery at high speeds. Bottom line: logbook falsifications can have deadly results.
A typical commercial trucking logbook has space to document off duty, sleep, driving, and on duty hours. These lines correspond with a 24 hour schedule. A completed logbook would ideally show a driver’s schedule, from the minute they pick up their cargo to their time off duty. Ideally, all hours in a day would be accounted for. These entries are signed by each driver, and drivers are trusted with filling these out truthfully. Not surprisingly then, falsifying a log is not looked upon highly by judges and juries when the truck driver’s negligence caused a serious car accident.
Any driver that fails to complete the record of duties performed or makes false reports on a log can be subject to prosecution. Despite this punishment, many drivers continue to falsify logbook entries. Often, drivers claim that they were “forced” by their trucking company to falsify entries. Trucking companies may put unattainable deadlines on deliveries, and as a result, many drivers feel that they must falsify information or risk being fired. This excuse does not always hold up well, and drivers can still be found liable for false entries, regardless of circumstantial pressure.
Other drivers may falsify entries for their own financial gain. The more time on the road, the more money they make. Some drivers disregard the law so they can stay on the road as much as physically possible. As a result, overworked and sleep-deprived drivers operate under less than ideal conditions. For example, drowsy drivers tend to exhibit slower reaction times, which could mean life or death to an innocent driver or bystander.
Recently, an Indiana truck driver who falsified his logbook hours entered a guilty plea to five counts of reckless homicide from an accident that claimed the lives of five people. The driver was transporting cargo that he picked up from South Bend, Indiana when his truck slammed into stalled traffic. According to reports, the driver started his work day at 2:30 a.m. but logged his starting time nearly 4 hours later, at 6:15 a.m. On top of falsifying his hours, the truck driver was also legally blind in one eye, but had apparently obtained a waiver permitting him to drive in Indiana. At the time of the accident, the truck was set in cruise control at 65 mph when it slammed into stalled traffic. The criminal charges can lead to anywhere from six to 28 years in prison.
Despite the severe consequences of truck driver fatigue, truck drivers continually falsify their logbook information. Whether it be for personal gain or from pressure placed by trucking companies, false logs lead to devastating crashes. If you or a family member are a victim of a trucking accident, an experienced truck accident attorney can obtain information from the truck company to establish your case. For example, an attorney can analyze the driver’s logbook and compare the entries to minimum standards set by federal law. False information in these books could be the difference in a trucking accident case.