Accidents involving commercial trucks can be far worse than accidents involving two cars, because the size and weight of a truck can cause significantly more damage, both to the other vehicle and to the other person(s) in that vehicle. If you’ve been in an accident with a truck and want to claim damages, one important piece of evidence to study is the driver’s log book. Here’s what you need to know about this vital document.

What Is a Log Book?

All commercial drivers must keep a log book while working. The books must fully detail all driving, resting, and on-duty hours the driver completes each day. It’s usually not enough to note, “Drove for eight hours” or “slept for six hours.” More detail is required, including:

  • The name of the trucking company the driver works for and their primary address.
  • The driver’s name and a co-driver, if there is one, along with the primary driver’s signature.
  • The license or other vehicle number assigned by the trucking company to the truck or trailer.
  • For each day, the date and total miles completed.
  • Shipping information, including document numbers or the shipper’s name and items being shipped.
  • The time base used, which means the time zone in effect at the home terminal. Even if the driver crossed other time zones, they must record times in that home terminal zone.

Log books used to be literal notebooks where the drivers would hand-write all this information. Drivers today use electronic logging devices (ELDs), which became mandatory for most drivers in the U.S. in 2017.

While most drivers are required to keep these log books, there are a couple of exceptions.

  • The non-commercial driver’s license (CDL) short-haul exception. When a commercial driver is driving a truck that doesn’t require a CDL, works inside a 150 air-mile radius (meaning the driver will go no further than 150 air miles from their normal home terminal), and follows the service regulations hours, the driver doesn’t need to fill out a daily log, just the times they start and finish work and the total on-duty hours for that day.
  • The 100 air-mile exception. Drivers don’t need to fill out a daily log book if their trip stays within 100 air miles from their home terminal, they complete their work within 12 hours, and follow the service regulations.

In cases where there are no logs to examine, the accident site itself, eyewitnesses, and any potential video from neighboring buildings may be used to determine liability. Rely on the assistance of a truck accident attorney with experience.

What Are the Laws Regarding How Many Hours a Trucker Can Drive?

Federal regulations specify how long a commercial driver is allowed to work in a day. That includes not just driving, but otherwise being on duty (maintaining the truck, etc.). Drivers aren’t allowed to be on duty more than 14 consecutive hours, and of those 14 consecutive hours, they can’t drive more than 11. At some point during the first 8 hours on duty, they’re required to take a 30-minute break.

There are also limits to how many days a driver can work. A driver working on a 7-day rolling week cannot work more than 60 hours over that period. A driver working on an 8-day rolling period cannot exceed 70 hours in that period.

What Can a Driver’s Log Book Tell Me About Their Liability in My Accident?

There are several things that can become important evidence from the log book.

  • The driver exceeded the number of hours or miles allowed under federal guidelines. This could lead to the driver being no longer safe to drive due to fatigue.
  • The mileage covered and the time it took to get there can indicate that the driver was speeding, a common source of accidents, especially if road conditions were poor.
  • ELDs log how long a truck was idle, which can demonstrate whether or not the driver took the required off-duty periods.
  • ELDs also log various unsafe driving techniques, including braking too hard, swerving, and speeding.

When drivers used handwritten logs, it wasn’t uncommon to find a driver or the trucking company had tried to falsify the written information. Often hastily done, the log books would have things that didn’t add up, including the number of miles driven in a specific time frame. However, ELDs have made forgery much more difficult, and the evidence from the records more compelling and damaging.

What Should I Do if I Was Injured in an Accident with a Truck?

First, see a doctor as soon as possible. There are injuries that can be severe that don’t always exhibit symptoms right away, so even if you feel fine, it’s best to get checked out. Untreated injuries can worsen if not tended to right away.

Then call Church & Page at 509 652-2420 to request a free consultation. Truck accident claims and lawsuits can be complex to navigate. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorneys can walk you through your options and work toward the best outcomes.

Don’t communicate with the truck driver or truck company’s insurance representative or attorney. Their goal is to either find a way to make you accept fault for the accident or to accept a settlement far lower than you’re eligible for. Those insurance representatives and attorneys work for the truck driver or trucking company, not for you. Say nothing, sign nothing, and refer all communications to your lawyer.