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Truck Accident Expert Witness:
How to Find Fatigue When Drivers Attempt to Hide it.

Truck Safety & Accident Expert Witness Articles

 By Scott Greene

Truck drivers generally get paid for the miles they drive and not the time they work. Therefore, there is a great incentive to save (falsify) duty hours in their log books. The new Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules are poised for implementation in June of 2013, potentially increasing the falsification of log books. Our experts at D&A Consultants, Inc. are often asked: “How does one go about finding these falsifications?”
 
To begin, it is helpful to receive the case within a 6 month period of time. The company and driver are under statuary requirement to retain log books for 6 months. D&A Consultants starts with those log sheets and look for times and speeds which are unrealistic under the circumstances the driver was under ie; time of day, traffic, terrain, load weight, truck configuration, weather conditions, etc. To do this we run the logs through a sophisticated software program to detect log violations. This in itself does not mean an intentional falsification has occurred. The driver may have made a simple addition error or an error in time zone location (both a rather common occurrence).
 
Our experts look for a pattern which could be considered a falsification. Trucking companies should have the ability to detect such falsifications made by their drivers. Upon discovery, the company is then required by law to 'write up' the driver and in some instances require additional training. If the company fails to do so, this constitutes a disregard of the rules by the company. In most instances, this occurs when a company is more interested in miles (AKA revenue and profits) rather than the safety of the motoring public or their driver’s health and safety.
 
After running the log program, our next step is to run the mileage between all stops which have been logged or shown on the driver’s log sheets. In addition to the log, we review fueling information (how fuel was purchased ie; fuel cards and receipts), toll receipts, in and out times for loading and unloading or any other tracking information which can give us time and locations. In this regard Evidence Solutions, Inc. (ESI), our sister company which specializes in technology, computer and digital forensics, is able to query the dispatch records, fuel purchased or fuel cards paid which are located on the company computers, the electronic communications between the truck and the company, cell phone records of the driver and company phone records. This information can be, and very often is, altered post incident. Only an experienced and knowledgeable electronic forensic examiner is able to detect these types of alterations.
 
Once D&A/ESI has this information and is able to analyze it, we are then able to make a determination if the driver was accurately logging their time as he actually drove it or was compressing time to save driving hours.  Unfortunately, this is a rather common practice in the industry, even though this practice is strictly forbidden by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR's). Companies very often look the other way when this happens as they want more miles, aka revenue, just as the drivers do.
 
While all of this information can provide us with an indication as to whether the driver is getting proper rest time in accordance with the FMCSRs, it this does not give us the last word on the drivers ability to actually get properly rested. As an example, if the driver is diagnosed with sleep apnea or is obese, which may cause this problem, then our experts may then look at the driver’s use of his Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine or his medical records. When our experts discover excessive bunk time it causes us to wonder why he or she is spending so much time in the bunk or if their time is being honestly and accurately recorded.
 
This leads us to the question “Where is the driver hiding his time?” Drivers hide their time by compressing their log books. This is done by a driver by using a calculator to say “I drove 200 miles and the company only lets me log 63 miles per hour. So, how much time do I need to log in my book to stay out of trouble with the company? 200 miles divided by 63=3.17 hours. So if I log 3.25 hours instead of the 4.25 hours it actually took I’m OK.” Logging with a calculator rather than a watch is a very common practice with drivers and is very difficult to detect. In addition, drivers often show a fuel stop of 15 minutes which is almost impossible to do, especially if the driver has averaged at or near the maximum allowable speed. Our experts are proficient at reviewing data showing consistent fuel amounts with miles driven and comparing them with the hours and locations of fuel stops, allowing our experts to uncover inconsistencies in driver log books. Having the assistance of knowledgeable forensic and trucking experts on your side who can locate and interpret this data accurately, allows you to maximize your clients case and settlement.
 
Note: The above information is consistent and typical of what a DOT enforcement officer may ask for from the company when conducting a safety audit. This information is also very useful to prove or disprove a driver’s log.
 
Remember, most information is transmitted electronically and can be found with proper Electronic Evidence investigation.

 

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Check out these related Articles:
Companies Can Help Control Fatigue

Driver's Age & Its affect on Fatigue.

How to Find Fatigue When Drivers Attempt to Hide it.

The 3 Inch (Log) Line Can Make or Break a Truck Accident Case

 

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