Rule of the Road No. 11: The daily log book as an oath or affirmation
This week, I’ll be wrapping up my “Rules of the Road” series of blogs for truck accident lawyers from my recent seminar. These 12 rules were shared with lawyers throughout the country during a truck accident litigation seminar I spoke at in New Orleans.
I had a truck driver e-mail me yesterday on the subject. This is what he wrote:
Company only allows 15 min. for pre- and post-trips combined and makes us sign time sheet for 15 min. total time for pre and post, because thats all they pay. I’ve told them they should allow 30 min. per day but not company policy. How can i get them to pay me for that time?
Sadly, there isn’t much this truck driver can do if he is like most truckers. Even though his company is violating federal and state safety rules, he is likely an at-will employee. His e-mail is a good example of the pressure put on so many drivers by bad trucking companies to break the rules. The company should clearly reconsider, because in a jurisdiction that allows punitive damages, this company policy may well justify punitives if the pressure to perform 15-minute inspections contributes to a clearly preventable truck accident.
What Truckers Write in Their Log Books and What They Actually Do
Almost any experienced truck accident attorney will say it should normally take 30 minutes (at the very least 20) to perform a proper pre-trip inspection. This leads to the issue of log books and the contrast between what truck drivers write in their logs and what many actually do in real life.
It’s no secret that log falsification within the industry is rampant, despite attempts by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the good motor carriers to curb log violations. Many truckers derisively cal these log books “lie books.” It gives you an idea of the scope of this problem.
And it is a problem. Log book forgeries are used to get around hours of service violations. Hours of service violations are meant to stop fatigued driving. As the science has shown, a fatigued truck driver is as dangerous in judgment and reaction time as a drunk driver – only this impaired person is behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer on our roads.
Lying on Log Books is Easy to Spot
Luckily, lying on log books is pretty easy to spot. Most experienced truck accident lawyers can find it, or the experts these lawyers rely upon will be able to find it, without too much trouble. Normally, it’s a matter of matching up where a trucker says he is with receipts to show he couldn’t possibly be where he said he was at a certain time. Gas, restaurant receipts, etc. are also a great way to show speeding.
The rule that many lawyers should use is 49 CFR ? 395.8(7): A driver shall certify to the correctness of all log book entries by singing the form containing the driver’s duty status record with his legal name or name of record. The driver’s signature certifies that all entries required by this section are true and correct.
Frankly, the mistake many lawyers make is not emphasizing how big a deal it is to lie on log books. Falsifying logs is a very big deal. Not only is the driver lying to his employer, but he’s lying to the federal government as well. And he is putting all of us at risk.
Remember, ? 395.8(7) treats the signature on the driver’s log the same as an oath or affirmation in court. It requires that all entries on the log are true and correct. This means lawyers shouldn’t simply use log books to impeach the driver’s credibility, but they should also emphasize that lying is the same as lying in court after swearing an oath to tell the truth.
I’ll be back on Thursday with my last “Rules of the Road” blog, which will discuss how important it is for everyone to really know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules, in order to stop preventable truck crashes.
– Steven M. Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group, and has received the top reported trial verdict in Michigan for truck accidents. Last year, Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his efforts in promoting truck safety in Michigan.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by bfishadow
Previous blogs from “Rules of the Road Every Truck Accident Lawyer Needs to Know” series:
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