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Busted! Tips to help truck accident attorneys spot fake driver log books

Written by Steve Gursten Posted November 6th, 2013

Valuable insight into finding fraudulent driving logs – which can land dangerous truck companies in trouble and prove driver and company negligence

truck driver log book

I became a truck accident lawyer first. It was only after I started litigating these cases that I also became a safety advocate.

I should state at the onset of this law blog that I know that the majority of all the truck drivers and trucking companies operating on our highways are trying to do the right thing.  Most are good people and they care about safety. And they care about sparing people from the hazards that an 80,000 pound, fully loaded semi-truck naturally creates.

But not all.  There are some very bad  truck drivers and trucking companies that give many good actors in the industry a very bad reputation.

Just like with law and some lawyers who tar the image of the profession for the rest of us.

As every trucking company and trucker should know, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) require all truckers and bus drivers to keep a record of duty for each 24-hour period. (See § 395.8 generally).

In addition, the trucking company or bus company itself must make sure that the truck drivers keep log books. (§ 395.8(a)). Having litigated hundreds of truck and bus accident cases, I will tell you that this rule is generally observed — at first glance. But as I quickly learned, sometimes the logbook and the truth are two very different things.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this: a dangerous trucking company hires a truck driver who inevitably causes a major semi-truck wreck. When I get a look at the trucker’s log book, it is bullet proof. The trucker driver appears to have fully observed every regulation in the FMCSRs.

But just as many times as I’ve seen the bad truck driver with a bulletproof log, I’ve seen the same truck driver exposed for falsifying his or her logs.  On my own cases I’ve litigated, it has not been uncommon to later discover that the truck driver actually had two sets of driver logs – the real ones, and the ones he was to turn over if he caused a serious wreck or to the police.

Here is a list of warning signs:

1. Excessive mileage for the time traveled

When I’m scrutinizing a logbook, one of the very first things I look for is whether or not there are excessive miles for the amount of time traveled. Sometimes, drivers log more miles than are mathematically possible in their big-rig.  The Internet makes this very easy to check on these days.

For example, bad truckers who falsify their logs will record that they traveled 300 miles in three hours. But many semi-trucks cannot possibly drive that fast. Most semi-trucks’ maximum speed is somewhere between 60MPH and 80MPH.  And even if a truck does go that fast, I am not aware of one road in the entire country where a driver can legally drive 100 MPH.

So, the trucker driver will either be caught in a lie, or admit that he was speeding in violation of local laws and the FMCSRs, which mandates that all “motor vehicle[s] shall be driven in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which [they are] operated.” (§ 398.4). Closely tied to this idea, look for the distance traveled in relation to the weather conditions, traffic conditions, and any other factors which might impact the truck driver’s speed.

2. Truck driver’s current record of duty status

Next, as a lawyer investigating a serious truck accident,  you will always want to look at whether or not the trucker’s record of duty status is current. I have come to realize that when a record is not current, it may be an indication that the truck driver or bus driver is running with two log books.

3. Identical runs

Another tip off that a truck driver is falsifying his or her logs is when runs made over a period of time are all identical. If a trucker makes a number of trips within a week, and always reaches the same ports of entry or customer locations at exactly the same time on each trip, alarm bells should be ringing.

While I can’t say that there is simply no way possible with all the variations in weather, traffic, and dozens of other factors that would allow a truck driver to arrive at his or her destination at the exact same time, to the minute, on every run, let’s just say it is extremely unlikely.

4. Only on-duty driving time

A lawyer or truck expert should also be very suspicious when the log book only reflects on-duty and driving time. Remember, a driver must record time for a pre-trip and post-trip inspection! When these are absent from the log, it means either that the log is falsified, or that the driver is not doing the required inspections. Either scenario is a lose-lose for the truck driver. One way or the other, the trucker will be violating the FMCSRs.

5. Team logs do not match

And finally (and perhaps most convincingly), look for where team drivers’ logs do not match up. Look at whether or not there is overlap or gaps in between on-duty and driving time across team drivers. This puts them in a difficult position – especially because in my own personal experience I often see the truck driver is the one who wants to do the right thing, and it is the company that is forcing him to drive over hours or violate federal regulations. Truckers must either admit the falsity of the logs, or throw their trucking company, and their safety manager (who likely urged or at least is very well aware of this) under the bus.

Moving forward with these helpful hints in mind, every tractor trailer lawyer should be able to be aware of, and hopefully expose any trucker or bus driver who tries to falsify driving logs.

Remember, just like everything else in life, when the log books loo too good to be true, they  probably are.

Related information:

5 ways to depose a truck company safety manager

Understanding truck accident law 

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.