As a trucking accident trial attorney in Georgia, half of my work seems to be ferreting out the facts that the other side wants to conceal. For years much of the challenge has been in attempting to prove driver fatigue by piercing the fog of deception in paper driver logs that are referred to in the industry as “comic books.” Often we are able to find enough time stamped receipts, loading dock tickets, etc., to prove the truth despite the obfuscation.
In recent years we have seen halting progress toward use of Electronic On-Board Recorders in the trucking industry. While still subject to manipulation, EOBR records are at least harder to fake.
Now, however, two Senators backed by giant trucking companies have proposed legislation that would allow use of EOBR information only if it’s good for the trucking company defendant, and keep it hidden if it helps the folks who are injured or killed by the trucking company.
Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ar) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tn) recently introduced the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act (S. 3884), which is an attempt by the trucking industry to hide evidence of fatigue in any truck driver involved in a wreck.
Of course, campaign contributions — and now the unregulated flow of anonymous corporate cash — count for more in Washington that the interests of members of the public who don’t yet know that they will be maimed or killed on the roads.
The bill, if passed, would allow the information contained in Electric On Board Recorders (EOBRS) to be used only by the owner. If the information helped the trucking company, they could use it. If it showed that the truck driver was fatigued, the company would be allowed to conceal its existence. Thus, people injured due to the trucking company’s practice of allowing fatigued drivers on the road would be denied access to the information needed to prove that aspect of the case.
Five giants of the trucking industry — JB Hunt Transportation, Knight Transportation, Maverick Transportation, US Express, and Schneider National — have formed a coalition they’re calling “The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security” to back the bill. They benefit financially from EOBR as a management tool, will benefit financially by revealig the data if it helps them in a case, and will benefit financially by burying the truth if it shows that their fatigued drivers injured or killed another person on the road.
Kudos to my friend, Morgan Adams in Chattanooga, for calling this to my attention.
Ken Shigley, author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice, is a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers . He practices law at the Atlanta law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard, and has broad experience in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. He is also president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia. This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.