Logbooks are necessary for authorized motor carriers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) require motor carriers to maintain logbooks of their schedules, the hours of work by a driver, and even in some instances, the maintenance and repair performed on a vehicle.
In truck accident litigation, the driver’s logbook can be invaluable. It can be introduced to prove that the motor carrier was not compliant with the law when the accident occurred. A truck driver’s logbook of their hours, for example, can prove that the driver worked beyond the 11-hour limit set by law to support a cause of action based upon negligence.
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The problem, however, is that logbooks are rarely filled out correctly or accurately. Most of the time, the practice in the industry is to fill out the logbook in advance to ensure they reflect compliance with the law, even though the reality is frequent noncompliance with the hours of sleep rule. It is for this reason that logbooks are sometimes routinely called ‘comic books’ in the trucking industry. They rarely reflect the truth.
However, logbooks are not the only way for your lawyer to prove that a company violated the law when the accident occurred. There are many different paper trails that a lawyer can follow to determine the trucking company’s compliance with the rules. Of course, following these evidentiary trails can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Trucking companies have an incentive to violate the law regarding logbooks. The commercial motor vehicle industry is subject to intense competition, and a company may be undercut by another one willing to break the rules.
Logbooks are a convenient way for companies to cover up their violations. They can write down that the driver is compliant with the hours of service rule even though this might not be the case. If an accident ever occurs, a company with a falsified logbook can use it to falsely claim that they were compliant with the law at the time.