When two passenger cars get into an accident, things are generally pretty straight-forward. The parties exchange information, the police are called and make a report, pictures are taken, and the names and addresses of any witnesses are taken down. All of this later is used to investigate which driver was at fault (or to what degree each driver was at fault) and for evidence in a later claim or lawsuit.
But when there is an accident between a passenger car and a commercial truck, like an 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer or other big rig, nothing is that simple.
Trucks and the Federal Law
Commercial trucking companies and their drivers are heavily regulated at both the federal and state levels. All trucks must obey state safety regulations. At the federal level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes thousands of regulations on commercial motor vehicles, including tractor-trailers. These regulations govern everything from how long drivers may drive, to the maintenance of the commercial fleet.
To combat driver fatigue, the FMCSA limits the number of hours a truck driver can drive without taking a break. These “hours of service” rules state that a driver can drive for 11 consecutive hours only after having 10 straight hours of non-driving time. A driver can drive for no more than 14 consecutive hours if he or she took a break of 10 straight hours. There is also a 60/70 rule, which says that drivers cannot drive if they just completed 60/70 hours of driving in a 7 or 8 day period unless they take 34 consecutive hours off from driving.
To enforce these hours of service rules, the FMCSA also requires commercial drivers to keep logbooks. The logbooks are a record of the driver’s hours on the road and the rest he takes. Again, the purpose is to ensure that drivers are getting sufficient rest. This is critical because truck driver fatigue is a major contributor to commercial truck accidents.
If you are in an accident with a commercial truck, the driver’s logbooks are often a critical part of your case. This is because you may be able to show through the logbooks that the driver did not take the required breaks, thus was at fault for the accident. If you can show through the logbooks that the driver violated the law, you may be able to hold both the driver and the company liable for your injuries.
However, not all truck companies or truck drivers follow the law. Despite the regulations, some drivers do not log their hours truthfully. This is because the longer they are on the road, the more money they make. The hours of service regulations interfere with a trucking company’s demands and with a driver’s income.
Also, the law does not require trucking companies to retain logbooks for very long. This means that if you do not act quickly after a trucking accident to demand that the company preserve the evidence you need for your case, it may be gone.
Truck accidents are complicated cases. Which is why you need competent truck accident counsel on your side.
We Fight To Get You The Compensation You Deserve
If you or someone you love has been injured in a trucking accident, call us. We are experienced truck accident attorneys. We offer FREE consultations and we don’t get paid unless you win your case. We have offices in Baton Rouge, and we serve all of Southern Louisiana. Call (225) 465-1232 ToDay to schedule your free consultation.