Every year truck accidents kill over 5,000 people and injure about 150,000 more on our nation’s roadways. Nearly 25% of vehicle deaths in collisions involve a large truck. Large trucks are involved in fatal crashes at twice the rate of passenger vehicles. Almost one in four fatalities among passenger vehicle occupants have actually been the result of wrecks involving a large truck.
When commercial truck drivers become fatigued from an excess of work hours, they greatly increase the risk of crashes that result in death or serious injuries. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured every year because of fatigued truck drivers.
Any trucker who drives in interstate commerce is required to keep records as to their duty status. Most over-the-road truckers have to do so by keeping an accurate and detailed log or an automatic on-board recording device. For any trucker keeping a log, it must be done by including all of the required data on an approved grid. The information that is required on the logs includes the following:
- Total miles driving today;
- Truck or tractor and trailer number;
- Name of carrier;
- Driver’s signature/certification;
- 24-hour period starting time (e.g., midnight, 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m.);
- Main office address;
- Name of co-driver;
- Total hours;
- Shipping document number(s), or name of shipper and commodity.
If a trucker fails to complete the record of duty activities, the truck can be ticketed and fined. After a collision, a detailed analysis of the logs often reveals violations of these regulations. These violations are often linked to what caused the accident and can be the key to establishing liability.
Keeping logs is a way for truckers to keep track of their hours on the road, so as to ensure adherence to driving requirements. But, as with every voluntary enforcement scheme (like the tax code), without detailed audits, there would be no safeguard against cheating. Unfortunately, cheating is believed to be extremely common. If there were not any way to at least confirm the accuracy of logs, truckers who cheat would do so without consequences. At least when a semi truck has injured an innocent motorist in an accident, it is possible to double check the log to see the hours worked. A detailed accounting examination of trucking logs can show that a major contributing factor in an accident was a driver who broke federal regulations which govern the maximum amount of hours they are allowed to drive.
To give you and idea of some of the federal requirements regulating trucker driving time in order to help prevent driver fatigue, the following provides you with a brief overview of the applicable regulations:
No driver can drive his vehicle for more than:
- 11 cumulative hours, following 10 consecutive hours off duty or for any period after the 14th hour after coming on duty.
- 7 day requirement. No driver can drive if they’ve been on duty 60 hours in 7 straight days.
- 8 day requirement. No driver can drive if they’ve been on duty 70 hours in 8 straight days.
Weekly Rest Period. In order to start a new 7 or 8 day period, the driver must be off for at least 34 or more consecutive hours. Driving time also means any time spent at the driving controls of a commercial vehicle.