Driving a long-haul semi is not as simple as climbing into a cab and hitting the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established a number of regulations regarding how long a driver can spend driving, when the driver has to take breaks for rest or sleep, and how these breaks have to be documented. The purpose of the truck driver’s travel log is to keep a written record of all these items for legal and other purposes.
What Goes Into a Travel Log?
Each company probably has its own version of a travel log, which complies with the regulations of the state that company is based in. All logs will contain a record of the driver’s time, and inspection reports. They should also contain:
- Off-duty hours. Long-haul truckers may be tempted to “drive through” from loading to delivery, but by law, they cannot do this, and their company cannot pay them to do so. The truck driver’s travel log must show how many hours in each 24-hour period the driver was officially off-duty.
- Sleeper berth hours. If the truck has a sleeper berth, and the driver sleeps or rests there instead of taking regular off-duty hours (for instance, sleeping in a motel), the FMCSA wants to know how many hours are being spent in the truck sleeping versus driving.
- Driving hours. Of course, both the FMCSA and the driver want to know how many hours were spent driving and on duty. That may be how the driver gets paid.
- On-duty hours. If the driver is on-duty and not driving, the FMCSA wants to know these total hours. If the driver was on duty from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but only drove from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., then the other five hours were “on-duty” hours, but the driver was not sleeping or off duty.
- Inspection reports. Depending on the company, the driver will inspect the vehicle before departure and then again upon delivering the load. Any deviation or issues should be checked by the mechanic.
Why Is a Travel Log Necessary?
Under Federal law, a driver is limited to the number of hours that can be driven in any 24-hour period. A driver may only spend 11 hours on the road, and 14 total hours on duty, following any 10-hour off-duty period. A driver must take a minimum 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours if no other break was taken during that period.
The truck driver’s travel log is not only required by law, but it also protects the driver in case of accident. The log shows whether the driver was getting sufficient rest and sleep, was not spending too much time on the road, and that the vehicle itself was being properly maintained. As long as the driver is obeying federal and state regulations, the trucking company’s insurance will have to cover him in an accident.
The travel log also shows the inspection record and helps establish when and where the vehicle was last serviced and what defects were noticed during the last inspection. If there is a question about the cause of an accident, this information is valuable in developing a timeline.
Log Books and Lawyers
If the driver is involved in an accident, it is important to remember that the logbook itself is evidence. Many people are unaware that truck drivers keep these documents, but like any other document, it can be subpoenaed and used to make or disprove a case against the driver.
A critical thing to remember about the logbook is that it does not last forever. Written logbooks must be maintained for six months after an accident, but after that, they may be destroyed. However, the statute of limitations to bring a personal injury suit is two years. A victim may decide in good faith to bring a legal suit, only to find that the truck company, in equally good faith, no longer has the records of the accident.
Contact Us for Help
The truck accident attorneys at Chris Hudson Law Group have helped hundreds of our clients obtain millions of dollars in settlements. They can analyze the case and advise you about the best way to proceed with the matter.
Your initial consultation with Chris Hudson Law Group’s attorneys is free and confidential. Remember, the logbook may disappear long before the time to file a case runs out. Call Chris Hudson Law Group at (706) 863-6600 even if you’re unsure if you have a case. There is nothing to lose by giving us a call.