When log books are perfect yet a trucker is asleep at the wheel
I always say that as an attorney, most truckers I know are good and care about following the law. But as you will read below, there are some truckers who just don’t care, even when it puts them at greater risk of causing a serious crash and hurting someone else on the roads.
While I catch a lot of these rule violations as an attorney, these are after the crash when it’s already too late. To catch these violations before, it’s up to the trucking companies to nab truckers when they lie and cheat on their log books. It is the trucking company that’s ultimately accountable when a truck accident occurs.
Truck company safety managers surely should notice discrepancies in the driver’s logs during audits. And they should be looking out for new ways that some drivers are violating hours of service rules, such as the “magic magnet.” Also, it’s important to look out for pulled fuses — they’re easily visible.
I personally like and want to help many of the truck drivers I encounter. I work with lawyers on the importance of helping truck drivers who are pressured by companies to violate safety rules – which is more often the case than not in the commercial vehicle accident cases I litigate. I hope truck drivers who read this blog understand that lawyers and truckers can work together to increase safety for truckers and for everyone on the road. I use this legal blog as an opportunity to write often about many of the challenges facing truck drivers, and I’ve even talked with trucking companies on safety. I’ve referred quite a few truckers who need legal help based upon whistle blower claims, and under Section 405 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which prohibits retaliation/discrimination for truck driver whistle blowers.
But if you’re one of the “rotten apples” who jokes around about how you’re putting yourself and everyone else at risk, you may have a problem with me one day. One serious truck case I’m currently working on has quite a story of truckers who feel rules are for others. It is a mix of “perfect” electronic log books, and camera footage showing the trucker falling right asleep at the wheel.
There are many ways for truck drivers to cheat on electronic logs that result in significant disparities between what’s in the logbooks and the real hours that the trucker is behind the wheel. It isn’t very hard to piece these cases together. But again, that’s usually after a truck accident has injured or killed someone and by then, it’s always too late.
My thoughts are based on my own experience as a lawyer for two decades — and much of what is written below is from the mouths of actual truck drivers themselves.
While it would likely be difficult to cheat on driving time with electronic logs, the computer does not know whether a driver is off duty, in the sleeper, on duty or not driving. A lot of loading, unloading, fueling, inspections and other activities are often entered as “sleeper” or “off duty.”
Here’s some eye-opening information I found on a few trucking blogs on the internet on how to cheat the logs:
- “you Sure you can [cheat on PeopleNet]… you can drive on another’s log in… and they don’t have to even be in the truck… or in the state, for that matter. Cops are so scared of e-logs, they seem to not even ask about your log status. I’ll explain this further in PM. not in the forum.”
- “my company run into problems with the logs logging drivers off duty when in city limits they fixed that. then drivers would log off while driving when entering city limit then back on when leaving city they stopped that. then if drivers was in one city and going say 100 miles to load then coming back thru the same city they would pull the fuse then when they got back to city they started in plugged it back in and sent loaded mesg LOL i have done all of the above but none work now.”
- It all depends on company policy and how they have the various parameters set in the system, and if they provide you with a “Line 5” (Driving-Off Duty) and allow reasonable usage of this.
- [from just a few months ago] “Mine will not trip over to driving (leave sleeper or off duty) until either the vehicle has exceeded 25 MPH or 2 radius miles, whichever comes first. This allows me to wake up at 22:00, move to the dock, unload, return to the staging area and go back to bed without tripping the unit off of sleeper status.”
- “It will depend on the way your company has the parameters set up on their E-logs.All E-logs have a status called off-duty driving. Some companies allow this when not under load,others when bobtailing only and some companies do not allow this status under any conditions. You will have to find out what your company’s policy is.”
- “i play with it all the time i will drive it when the system click me on driving i reset the system and its keep me on off duty or on duty not driving this is how i save my driving time when im hanging out in traffic everyday 4 o clock on george washington bridge it’s always a mess and i always play around with my log and if dot get mad im sorry i don’t know why the qualcomm didn’t click me on driving.”
- “I had a person who once told me, to log out of your trucks e-logs when you were doing something that might cause a problem. I would never, ever do that myself because I am a SUPER TRUCKER. “
- “yeah we have line 5 too but safety doesn’t advertise it. you have to go in and ask for it to be added/opened up on your truck so that it’s available. that way they get to give you the admonition face to face on how it’s only to be used bobtail, only for 30 minutes in any 24hr period, and never under dispatch or when attached to a trailer just to cover their ###. the real world operates a little differently though. it’s been a lifesaver in some instances to avoid a violation even though safety will tell you it’s better to take the violation than to drive line 5 when you shouldn’t be. yeah, better for them. we can go 5 minutes at 35mph+ or a 1.7 mile radius before ours kicks over and then we have 1 minute to change the status back before it locks in and you’re stuck with it. each company has theirs set up differently. learn what your parameters are and that’s one way to work it to your advantage. if your company allows line 5, go in and ask for it……..it helps and can save you in those rare instances where you find yourself in a bad spot just to get you in the clear and parked…….just don’t abuse it and use it only when absolutely necessary and you stay off the #### list.”
- “Drive two miles…. turn off truck….drive two miles….turn off truck. If there are stoplights you can hit SB and get another two miles. Repeat until destination reached (use method for getting to first stop of day if possible). Rediculous right…. But what you gotta do if you wanna save your clock… You see 7:59 on the clock hit SB or pull over and shut truck off and edit the on to off…. You should have an off duty drive option you can use for your pc time.”
- “double on SMD. as for the OP. it’s called PERSONAL CONVEYANCE. if you don’t have that somehow, somewhere, then i guess your just SOL. i used it ALL the time on the weekends. just becuase i was parked. don’t mean i’m going to stay parked. the elogs i WAS on. went 10 minutes before starting. after that 10 minutes was deducted. unless you were stopped. it MAY be a handy tool. but i don’t feel like i need permission to drive my motorhome when i want to go somewhere. NOR, should i have to have permission just to fire up my truck. NOR, should i have to deal with it nagging, because it wants me to change the way i did my logs. YOU MUST STOP AND CERTIFY THIS, THAT, AND THOSE OVER THERE. tis good to be back on paper. all you box lovers and the gooberment can stick those things where the moon shines.”
- “one trick would be to just unplug the thing from the ecm plug. the problem with trying to hide your movements. is it triggers an alert for mileage and fuel discrepancy. least, ours did.”
- “yup here is one open up your fuse panel and disconnect the thing, or go off duty personal use, flag events still are flag events elog or no elog.”
- “With people net, I log off completely when bobtailiing to the motel. As in, driver – log off. When in the yard, I’m in sleeper, but can’t move more than about 2 miles without it forcing me into drive. Allows me to hook up and per trip without chewing up on duty time.”
- “Many companies do not allow the company truck to use “line 5″ as everyone calls it. But, allow the O/O to use it. After all, it is their truck versus the O/O’s truck and fuel.”
- “There is something we used do in Europe but be warned: they are now regarding it in Europe as FRAUD so carries a jail term , I don’t know how the law regards it in NA…. It’s very simple, you get a strong magnet like on the base of a cb Ariel , stick it to the gearbox where the sender unit is sticking out of it, that puts it to ‘sleep’ the head can’t read the speed properly so records no movement, it records as rest”
Here are the trucking industry forums where I found the info:
Here’s what one safety director said in an anonymous blog:
“If you give them a reason to say the eLogs are broken they’re going to run with it. We have several drivers that will have “system failures” but as soon as they get to the terminal they fix themselves, it’s funny how it’s always the same drivers that have these issues. I’d suggest learning as much as possible about the units, how the they hook up, how to troubleshoot, what it looks like when a unit is disconnected, what it looks like when a fuse is pulled, what it looks like when the antenna is disconnected/covered. This way you’ll be able to identify when drivers are being less than honest with you. Another thing to check with intermittent outages are miles without hours, often times drivers will disconnect from a truck stop, deliver a load, drive back to the truck stop and reconnect the unit. Lot’s of things to be on the lookout for. Just figure out how you would cheat the system if you were a driver and start from there.”
This is a quote I will be using in many of the safety director depositions I will be taking in the future. It’s important for these companies to realize that turning a blind eye will expose them to negligent supervision and negligent entrustment claims. If the violations are egregious enough, it may expose the companies to a claim for punitive damages, if a person was seriously hurt or killed in the underlying wreck.
As I wrote above when I started this blog post today, safety has to start with the company first.