Because many motorists see commercial trucks on a regular basis, they tend to forget the substantial risks they pose to public safety. As massive machines that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, trucks and 18-wheelers are incredibly difficult to maneuver, slow to stop and respond to collision-critical events, and prone to tip-overs, jackknifing, and lane departures. They are also one of the biggest culprits behind catastrophic injuries and death on American roads.
Because the risks truck accidents pose to the public are considerable – and because they are a necessity in commerce that are not going away anytime soon – state and federal governments enforce a number of regulations over the trucking industry. These range from rules governing weight limits and vehicle maintenance to commercial driver licensing and crash risk mitigation. They also include regulations mandating the use of electronic logs.
What are Electronic Logs?
Electronic logs are kept by truck drivers and trucking companies using electronic logging devices (ELDs). These devices allow trucking operators to keep records of the following:
- Engine hours and date/time a vehicle is in use
- Movement and location of vehicles
- Miles driven
- Driver identification information
Although paper records regarding vehicle usage and mileage have long been a requirement for trucking companies and their drivers, regulators from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently adopted a new rule mandating ELDs. According to the FMCSA, most commercial bus and trucking companies will be required to install ELDs and use them by a certain deadline (December 18, 2017 for companies currently using paper logs or logging software, or December 16, 2019 for companies using older automatic on board recording devices).
Why are Electronic Logs Used?
Electronic logs are favored by safety advocates and federal regulators because they provide more accurate information about commercial vehicles and their movement. This information is critical to helping inspectors spot violations that put lives at risk, and to holding drivers and trucking companies accountable for violations. According to the FMCSA, widespread use of electronic logs could prevent over 560 injuries and nearly 30 deaths each year.
How Can Electronic Logs Benefit an Injury Case?
When it comes to personal injury or wrongful death claims involving truck accidents, there can be many potential causes of wrecks, as well as multiple parties that could be held liable for victims’ damages. As part of the investigations we conduct, our legal team looks for possible violations and negligent conduct that caused or contributed to a wreck in order to hold drivers and trucking companies liable for the damages victims suffer.
By using electronic logs, our team can more easily locate and more accurately explore records of vehicle usage prior to a collision. Just as these logs aid regulators in spotting violations, they also aid us in identifying dangerous practices that may have played a role in harming our clients. This may include:
- Violations of Hours-of-Service rules – HOS rules are designed to keep tired and overworked commercial drivers off the road. These rules stipulate the amount of hours drivers can work, as well as when they must take rest breaks. When drivers and companies violate these rules, they increase the risks accidents caused by driver fatigue, a problem that has become a notorious issue in the trucking industry, where profit-maximization and deadlines all too often cause drivers and trucking operators to push past the rules in order to make deliveries, and which studies have shown can increase crash risks equivalent to driving with a BAC over the legal limit.
- Violations of vehicle inspection and maintenance rules – The FMCSA enforces a number of regulations requiring truckers and companies to routinely inspect and maintain their fleet. Often, these mandated inspection and maintenance rules are based on mileage. If electronic logs show trucks traveling excessive distances without inspections or maintenance, it could constitute a violation, as well as an underlying factor in the accident.
- Other violations – Depending on the type of commercial vehicle involved, electronic logs may also shed light on other possible violations. This may include vehicles that were driven in locations where they should not have been driven (such as a vehicle carrying harmful substances traveling on a roadway where they are typically prohibited from traveling), excessive speeds, more.
- Direct investigation – Electronic logs may provide information that can be used to provide direction in investigations, such as whether fatigued driving was significant, an ongoing problem, not addressed by employers, and / or even openly encouraged. Such direction can allow our attorneys to secure additional evidence to highlight negligence and support a victim’s claim.
Reviewing electronic logs is one of many ways our truck accident attorneys at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin investigate trucking wrecks. Depending on the circumstances, electronic logs can serve as a critical piece of evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death case, or provide the direction needed to highlight an underlying cause and establish fault and liability.If you have questions about a recent truck accident and would like to learn more about your rights and what Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin can do to help, contact us for a FREE case evaluation.