Dallas County saw 379 serious injury commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents in 2012, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. One factor that contributes to some accidents that involve large trucks is trucker fatigue.
To prove negligence in truck accident cases, accident victims may use the driver’s record of duty logbooks to demonstrate the truck driver violated federal guidelines for allowable hours behind the wheel and on duty. This might suggest the driver was fatigued at the time of the accident.
Requirements to Keep a Trucker Logbook and Overview of Hours of Service Rules
Driver fatigue is one of the major causes of trucking accidents. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that 13 percent of drivers involved in crashes were fatigued at the time of the accident. Every commercial truck driver is required by federal regulations to complete duty status reports for every 24-hour period.
Duty status reports include entries for time spent:
- off duty;
- in the sleeper berth;
- driving; and
- on duty but not driving.
The logbook also records the:
- total miles driven each day;
- truck/trailer number;
- carrier name;
- carrier address;
- total hours; and
- driver’s signature.
Truckers are only allowed to be on duty for a total of 14 hours straight before they must take a mandatory 10 hours of rest. During those 14 hours, they can only drive for 11 hours, although the driving can be done continuously. In any seven-day period, the driver can only have been on-duty for a total of 60 hours, and in an eight-day period, the limit is 70 hours.
Liability for Hours of Service Violations
The driver and the carrier company that employs the driver each may be responsible for hours of service rule violations. For example, if a carrier company encouraged the driver to drive for long hours, it can be liable if the truck driver causes an accident. But even if it had no knowledge of the violation, the carrier may still be vicariously liable for its employee’s actions.
Carrier companies are required by law to keep the record of duty entries for six months after the date of receipt. If a victim suspects that the driver may have been fatigued, he or she can send a spoliation letter to the trucking company that prevents the company from destroying the records even after this six-month time period.
Get Help Sending a Spoliation Letter to Preserve Evidence
The letter of spoliation may preserve other types of evidence in addition to the trucker’s logbook like:
- the driver’s personnel and qualification file;
- inspection and maintenance reports for the truck; and
- even the truck itself.
Meanwhile, after any trucking accident, federal and state law requires that a certified truck inspector complete an accident report in addition to any police reports. These accident reports may be valuable in a case as well.
Accident victims should consult an attorney about sending these letters and what to include in them. There are many complex rules surrounding the trucking industry, and it’s good to have a knowledgeable advocate on your side. The Law Office of Julie Johnson is committed to helping truck accident victims seek justice. Contact our office at 214-290-8001 to schedule your consultation.