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Truck and 18 Wheeler Accidents: What is a Truck Driver’s Logbook ? 

Truck driver in the cab of a big rig recording hours of service in his logbook.

How Our Undefeated Truck Accident Lawyers Use Truck Driver Logbooks to Prove Your Case

After a truck accident, a truck driver’s logbook contains critical evidence that can be used in your 18 wheeler accident lawsuit.  

When our undefeated truck accident attorneys are hired, we immediately put together a team of investigators, accident reconstruction specialists, and engineers to go to the scene and start gathering important evidence.  

We quickly obtain the driver’s logbook to determine what caused the collision and how it could — and should — have been prevented. 

But what are logbooks in the first place and how do they help prove your case?  

Here’s everything you need to know about today’s completely digitized Electronic Logbook Devices and why they are crucial evidence in your truck accident lawsuit.  

Table of Contents

What is a Truck Driver Logbook?

A logbook is a record of the hours a truck driver works. This log tracks the time a driver spends “on duty” (working but not driving), “off duty” (taking a break from working), driving, or in their sleeping berth (hopefully resting, though that’s not always the case). 

A logbook records a detailed account of what happened before a truck accident and may indicate evidence of wrongdoing, such as incomplete or fraudulent information or proof that the driver violated federally-mandated rules for how long they are allowed to drive in any given stretch. 

Truck Driver Logging Requirements

Truck drivers are required to closely monitor their hours of service as mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a federal agency established within the Department of Transportation in 2000 to improve roadway safety by regulating the activities of the commercial trucking industry.   

The FMCSA regulates two key safety areas in trucking — hours of service rules and driver’s daily logs — through Title 49, Part 395.8 of the Federal Code of Regulations. Here’s what these regulations do: 

  • Require all commercial truck drivers to keep a daily log of hours worked, known as their “record of duty status,”  to maintain their driving privileges.  
  • Require Electronic Logging Devices to be installed and used in all commercial big rigs to automatically record these hours. 

These regulations were specifically created to ensure that drivers stay awake and alert when they are behind the wheel, and make it easier and faster for them to accurately track, manage, and share their records of duty status (RODS) data. 

What Are Hours of Service Rules?

Hours of service regulations were first enacted in the 1930s and are intended to reduce the risk of commercial truck crashes related to driver fatigue, a factor in roughly 40% of all trucking-related accidents

The regulations not only limit the number of daily and weekly hours commercial drivers can work or operate a vehicle, they also specify the minimum amount of time a driver must rest between driving shifts.   

The following limitations are in place by the FMCSA. 

Daily Hours of Service Regulations 
  • Long-haul truckers must take at least a 30-minute break for every 8 hours driven. 
  • Truck drivers may not drive beyond 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Taking off-duty time does not extend a 14-hour period.  
  • During the 14-hour driving window, the truck driver may only log 11 total driving hours. The remaining time must constitute the various breaks the driver needs. 
Weekly Hours of Service Regulations 
  • Truck drivers must drive no more than 60 hours in a seven-day week or 70 hours in an eight-day week. 
  • After 70 hours, the driver must take 34 hours off-duty to restart the period. 
  • The 34-hour rest period must include at least two intervals between 1 and 5 a.m. 
  • The 34-hour rest period to restart may only be used once per week or once per 168 hours. 
Exceptions to Daily and Weekly HOS Regulations

The trucking industry will stop at nothing to weaken hours of service rules, and they found a friendly administration during the Trump era, which weakened hours of service rules aimed at preventing fatigue-related truck accidents.  Two of the most egregious provisions still in effect today include: 

  • 16-hour driving window, which allows some truck drivers to extend the maximum driving-window by two hours if they encounter adverse conditions, such as inclement weather. 
  • Sleeping berth provision, which allows drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two periods. Drovers are permitted to take one break of at least seven hours in the sleeper berth, while a second lasting at least two consecutive hours could be taken either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the 14‑hour driving window. 

Why Are Hours of Service Rules Important?

Hours of service rules are designed to keep our roads safer by keeping fatigued truck drivers off the road and holding the drivers and trucking companies that continue to put profits above all else responsible for their reckless behavior. Hours of service regulations place the responsibility of enforcing and auditing a driver’s logs on the trucking company.  The truck driver is also responsible for ensuring the information in a logbook is up to date and correct. 

As such, truck driver logbooks are critical when it comes to holding drivers and trucking companies accountable for hours of service violations or, worse, for causing entirely preventable and often catastrophic fatigue-related truck wrecks. 

If a driver is involved in a collision or pulled over in connection with a traffic violation, the officer will request a copy of the driver’s logs. If the logs are not up to date, the driver is immediately taken off the road and the trucking company is fined. 

Unfortunately, it is our experience that these rules do not go far enough, especially as deaths from truck crashes have increased 49% over the last decade, according to National Safety Council data, and fatalities have risen for the eighth year in a row as of 2023.   

For instance, when it comes to daily hourly restrictions, hours of service rules don’t actually require a driver to sleep during their 10-hour break. That’s a huge problem! A driver could technically stay awake for a full 24 hours, then get back into their truck and start driving without violating federal law. 

For this reason alone, our undefeated truck accident lawyers continue to fight alongside safety advocates who want to see far more stringent federal regulations and rightly so. 

How Do Truck Drivers Log Time?

For decades, FMCSA hours of service rules required truck drivers to handwrite their hours in an actual ledger they kept in the cab of their big rig, recording how long they drove, the weather conditions, road hazards, or equipment issues that posed problems during each trip as well.  But there was a problem with relying on truck drivers to do the right thing: many could not be trusted.  

Time and again, drivers forged their books. Some were even known to keep two sets of logbooks — one that recorded what actually happened during a trip (speeding, driving for much longer than they’re allowed to, picking up a hitchhiker, etc.) and another that they would present to their carriers or inspectors, filled with lies. 

In 2017, that all changed when — in an effort to reduce the growing number of deadly truck accidents in the U.S. — the FMCSA mandated that truck drivers use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to prepare hours of service records of duty status.  

The FMCSA’s ELD rule radically transformed how truck drivers comply with hours-of-service rules. Now their hours are mostly tracked automatically through technology, making it nearly impossible for drivers to manipulate or lie about their hours-of-service records — still, many try. 

The ELD mandate also established what supporting documents drivers and carriers must keep and for how long — including itineraries, dispatch and Fleet Management System records, expense receipts, payroll, and more — which trucking companies will do everything they can to hide and which an experienced truck accident attorney will obtain to hold these companies accountable when they cause our clients harm.  

Electronic Logging Devices or E-Logs — What to Know

An Electronic Logging Device, more commonly called an “ELD” or an “e-log,” is today’s digitized version of a logbook. Typically installed as a tablet mounted in a truck cab or used as a handheld mobile device, an ELD syncs with a truck’s engine system and automatically records the following data at specific intervals: 

  • Date 
  • Time 
  • Location information 
  • Engine hours 
  • Vehicle miles 
  • Identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle, and motor carrier 

An ELD is supposed to start recording when a driver begins their trip, even if it’s just in the “yard” (terminals and other private property where a truck may be loading cargo) and even if they aren’t driving yet. It records in 60-minute intervals when the vehicle is in motion, when the driver powers up and shuts down the engine, changes duty status, and indicates personal use or yard moves. Even though these devices collect quite a bit of automated data, much is still left up to the driver to fill in — and we know how that goes.  

Truck drivers are required to record the following information as part of their Record of Duty Status: 

  • Date  
  • Total miles driven during a 24-hour period 
  • Truck or tractor and trailer number or license plate number 
  • Name of carrier   
  • Main office address  
  • Name of co-driver, if applicable  
  • Time zone in effect at their home terminal.  
  • Remarks, including any city and state where a change of duty status occured, or any unusual circumstances such as bad weather  
  • Total hours (which must equal 24 hours), including time spent on-duty, off-duty, driving, in the sleeper berth, and on break 
  • Shipping document number, such as from a shipping manifest 
  • Their signature 

An example of what a truck driver is expected to fill out every day in their logbook is found in the graphic below.  

Why Truck Drivers Don’t Like ELDs

Though truck drivers must use an e-log by law, they have not embraced them, not even close. After all, an ELD automatically captures and transmits data and reveals reckless behavior such as speeding or fatigued driving for what it is — making it much more difficult to get away with.   

According to FMCSA data seen in the graphic above, hours-of-service violations have significantly decreased since industry-wide implementation of ELDs began in 2019. 

But many truckers believe ELDs make their industry far more dangerous. In fact, fatality rates among truck drivers increased from 23.6 per 100,000 workers in 2013 to 28.8 in 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And injuries and fatalities from large truck accidents also increased since the ELD mandate, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data below.  

Only during the pandemic, when fewer passenger vehicles were driving our nation’s roadways, did these numbers dip. They have since bounced back with a surge in large truck accidents that increased by 26% from 2021 to 2022. 

Because truckers are often paid by the mile (not by the hour), many believe having technology that forces them to shut off the engine after 11 hours leads to more reckless driving — especially speeding — to make up for the miles their employers expect them to cover, and which they could have easily falsified back in the days of paper logbooks.  

National Transportation Safety Board Calls for Additional Truck Safety Protections

Safety advocates, too, have concerns about the use of ELDs, which are not required to track a vehicle’s performance including its speed, breaking action, steering function or other parameters. These devices only collect data to help determine compliance with hours of service rules. 

That is just one reason the National Transportation Safety Board has long called for more federal trucking safety regulations, including requirements for collision avoidance technology, such as speed limiters and automatic emergency braking systems, which they believe would help prevent tens of thousands of accidents annually. Many big rigs manufactured today already have this technology built into them, but until all 18-wheelers are required to install and use it, trucking companies will continue to shirk the rules and put profit above the safety of every American on the road, including their own drivers. 

What Violations May Be Evident from a Truck Drivers Logbook?

Truck drivers work under extreme pressure and often unrealistic deadlines, hauling freight without the time needed to do so safely. This drastically increases their chances of skipping rest breaks, driving at dangerous speeds to make up distance, and attempting to push through utter exhaustion.  Fatigue is among the leading causes of deadly truck accidents, accounting for almost a half of deadly accidents. 

When a truck driver violates hours of service rules, they can and SHOULD be held responsible for the accident.  

Common HOS violations may include:  
  • Too many miles covered in a certain time period 
  • Operating past 14-hours on duty, even if a driver is trying to reach their home just a short 30 minutes away  
  • Driving over 60/70 hours in 7/8 days without the mandatory 34-hour rest break 
  • Not taking necessary rest breaks, or taking inadequate off-duty time, which significantly increases the chances of fatigue-related accidents 
  • General non-compliance, such as not using an ELD, not ensuring an ELD is certified by the FMCSA, not making sure information is accurate, not sending in requested reports during a compliance review, or not providing adequate reports during a roadside inspection 
  • Falsifying information, like when the driver first reported to duty, took a rest-break, or performed a load inspection 

Truck drivers or carriers who falsify logbooks and violate hours of service rules can face serious penalties, including: 

  • Being shut down temporarily 
  • Costly state and federal fines up to $11,000 per violation  
  • A downgraded motor carrier’s safety rating  
  • Federal criminal conviction  

Even facing punishment, truck drivers and trucking companies continue to tamper with ELDs and forge the books. In 2023, nearly 24,000 out-of-service violations were caused by falsified log books, according to FMCSA roadside inspection violation data.  And nearly 29,000 more were caused by drivers having no record of duty status at all — meaning they failed to use a certified ELD correctly or at all. 

When we get our hands on a driver’s logbooks, we almost always detect incorrect or false information, which we then use to prove negligence against the trucking company and truck driver.  

How Will My Truck Accident Lawyer Use a Logbook to Prove My Case?

There’s little a trucking company won’t do to avoid responsibility for injuring or killing another driver on the road. That includes destroying or even falsifying their driver’s logbooks, along with other essential evidence after a truck accident. The trucking company knows that the less evidence that exists, the easier it is for them to fabricate defenses and the harder it is for the victim to prove the company and its driver were at fault. 

Regardless of what the trucking company or its insurance adjusters promise you after a crash, it’s critical that you take immediate action to protect your rights and prevent the company from destroying important evidence that proves that its driver was at fault for the crash. 

Hiring an experienced truck accident attorney right away is the only way to guarantee you have access to the logbooks and the expertise to use this sensitive information to hold the truck driver and trucking company accountable for your injuries and losses.  

We know the trucking industry’s dirtiest tricks and we have resources and experience to ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries and damages.   

We Compare the Evidence to Find Out What Really Happened 

After an accident, we compare the data recorded in an e-log to other essential evidence to reveal the complete picture of what happened and how it could have been prevented.    

Evidence we gather and compare to the e-log may include: 

  • Cell phone records 
  • Maintenance and loading logs 
  • Bills of loading 
  • Trip envelopes 
  • Truck driver receipts 
  • Witness accounts 
  • Physical evidence from the scene and vehicles involved  

With this evidence, we can determine if excessive speeding or inadequate rest periods leading to fatigue played a role in the accident, or if the vehicle had malfunctioning brakes or equipment that were repeatedly ignored — all of which may be used to prove negligence on the part of the trucking company and driver. 

Furthermore, we can hold the trucking company and its insurers accountable for the FULL amount of recoverable damages because we have the data to back up exactly how much harm they caused you and how they could have prevented the accident in the first place.  

We Use HOS Rules to Prove the Driver and Trucking Company Are at Fault 

A truck driver’s logbook is a clear record that reveals the actions leading up to an accident, but this information also shows how violations of federal regulations or other safety protocols also played a part in causing you harm. 

An experienced truck accident attorney will pore over logbook data to identify any violations of daily and weekly hour restrictions, mile coverage, rest times, and any other information that seems inaccurate or falsified.  

Because of the safety violations the e-log might uncover, our undefeated truck accident attorney will also do everything in our power to make sure the trucking company and driver are never able to violate federal regulations or operate unsafely again. 

Our team has been responsible for federal regulatory changes regarding Obstructive Sleep Apnea testing — critical to reducing fatigue-related accidents — and we continue to use our expertise and wins in the courtroom to push for even more trucking safety measures.  

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact Our Undefeated 18-Wheeler Accident Attorneys for a Free Consult at 1-888-603-3636. 

Our Undefeated Texas 18 Wheeler Accident Lawyers have won billions — including Record-Setting Verdicts and Settlements — for thousands of people injured or tragically killed by fatigued, impaired, and reckless commercial drivers. 

If you or someone you love were injured in a truck or 18-wheeler accident, contact our Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers at 1-888-603-3636 or click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form. 

Your consultation is free, and you won’t pay anything unless we win your case. 

Contact the Undefeated Houston Truck Accident Law Firm of Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact our Undefeated truck accident lawyers in Texas at Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have two convenient locations in Houston and Midland.

We proudly serve Harris County, Midland County, and its surrounding areas:

Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers – Houston
2700 Post Oak Blvd #1000, Houston, TX 77056
(888) 603-3636
www.zehllaw.com

Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers – Midland
306 W Wall St Suite 701, Midland, TX 79701
(432) 220-0000