Less than a month ago, on Jan. 27, 2014, a truck crashed on I-88 in Aurora, Ill., killing a toll worker and injuring a state trooper. According to the Chicago Tribune, prosecutors allege that the driver, Renato V. Velasquez, was nearing the end of a 36-hour marathon shift.
Federal laws clearly ban this type of high-risk driving. In July 2013, new regulations went into effect that:
- Limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours.
- Require truckers who reach the 70-hour driving mark in a week to resume only after resting for 34 consecutive hours.
- Require truckers to take a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours of a shift.
The new regulations retained the preexisting 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour workday.
Truck drivers are required to keep driving logs that track their compliance to the regulations. Many large trucking companies have gone to electronic reporting, which is much harder to falsify than traditional paper logs. Many small companies, however, have been resistant to the change and still maintain use of paper logs. Over the years, there have been disturbing accounts of these logs being falsified by the driver, often times under pressure by the trucking company.
Trucker Fatigue Difficult to Prove
Unlike drugs or alcohol, there is no definitive test for fatigue. A severely fatigued driver may be as impaired as a drunk driver, but without black-0r-white evidence like a blood alcohol level, how can a fatigued driver be discovered? The answer lies in the driver’s logs. When kept accurately, these logs may directly reveal non-compliance and fatigued driving. When falsified, however, there are still ways to discover a fatigued driver. They include:
- Comparing the time stamp on fuel receipts to reported locations
- Comparing time between fuel stops or port of entries in consideration of speed limit and road conditions
- Looking for suspicious entries, such as the exact same time recorded for port of entry logs on subsequent trips
Further, accidents associated with fatigue do not always occur at times you might associate with this danger. An accident that occurs in the afternoon may be the result of a trucker driving all night and into the day, or the result of sleeping scant hours before once again hitting the road. In addition, accidents that appear to have been the result of speed can also involve fatigue. Tired drivers often drive faster in order to make it to their destinations faster. This increased speed combined with delayed reflexes due to fatigue can be deadly. Fatigue is a factor that should always be considered when commercial vehicles, especially long-haul trucks, are involved in a crash.
Trucker or Trucking Company — Who is to Blame?
Every truck driver has a responsibility to keep an accurate driver log and follow federal regulations. But they are not the only culpable ones. Drivers have reported being put under tremendous pressure to falsify their logbooks and flout regulations by their employers. In fact, the driver involved in January’s deadly crash was employed by a company named DND, according to the Tribune. In terms of unsafe driving practices, DND ranks among the top 10% – which means that 90 percent of trucking companies are safer, the Tribune reported, citing federal records. DND’s rap sheet allegedly includes 11 allegations of drivers falsifying their hours.
If You Have Been Injured, Seek Help
Non-compliance with the laws governing working hours and falsifying driver logs are federal crimes and can be prosecuted at a federal level. For accident victims, however, it is imperative to pursue a case in civil court as well. Injuries or wrongful death that result from truck accidents can be financially devastating to the victims. Factors such as fatigue, the regulations governing driving time and the split responsibility of the trucker and the company are examples of factors that make truck accident cases unique.
If you were injured, or you lost a loved one, in a trucking accident, you need an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases. The Truck Accident Attorneys are nationally recognized as attorneys who focus on accidents involving commercial vehicles. If you have been involved in an accident involving a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, please contact us immediately for a free, no-obligation consultation.