For many years, interstate truck drivers have referred to the driver logs required by federal law as “comic books.” Falsification of logs has been so common that many drivers kept two sets of logs, one for their own use and another to show to inspectors. As a trucking accident trial attorney, I have spent many hours ferreting out the misrepresentations, using loading dock tickets, fuel receipts, etc., to recreate an honest timeline. Once, when I established in deposition that a log was a complete bundle of lies, and that the trucker had been driving 20 of the previous 24 hours before he ran over a family and killed their son, the truck driver broke down and cried.
Though the technology has long been available, the trucking industry has been slow to accept a requirement of electronic on board recorders, replacing easily falsified paper logs with electronic ones. The current FMCSA rule, which will go into effect June 4, 2012, says that carriers that violate hours of service rules 10 percent of the time, based on single compliance review, must use electronic onboard recorders to track driver hours. It will affect only 5,700 of 500,000 interstate carriers.
Now, however, there is growing acceptance among trucking industry groups of the idea of electronic driver logs. The Truckload Carriers Association, American Trucking Associations, National Private Truck Council, and . National Tank Truck Carriers, and all recently announced support for federal laws and regulations that would require trucking companies to use electronic logging devices to monitor driver hours-of-service. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association still opposes mandatory electronic logs.
Of course, the devil is often in the details. As long as there is an economic motivation to cheat, there will be those who find a way to do so. As electronic logging systems become more common, those of us whose job it is to look behind the surface to determine the truth will be required to become more sophisticated about detection of falsified electronic records.
Ken Shigley is an Atlanta, Georgia, trial attorney. He has been designated a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), one of the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend), and rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory. He is author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice (West, 2010), a Certified Civil Trial Attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and currently president-elect of the 42,000 member State Bar of Georgia. He has extensive experience in litigation and trial of cases involving serious personal injury, wrongful death, trucking accidents, automobile accidents, products liability, premises liability, and insurance. Mr. Shigley is a graduate of Furman University and Emory University Law School. This blog post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.