Gary Bell: Good morning. Welcome to the Bell & Pollock Legal Show. I’m Gary Bell along with Brad Pollock. Our law firm is Bell & Pollock. We’re injury attorneys here to educate you, to teach you about a different injury subject each week. We do it so we can give you this information, so you can be empowered to help yourself, to analyze what’s going on when you’ve been injured.
Okay, today, what do you know about big trucks?
What do you know about big rigs?
Big rigs, 18 wheelers, buses, motor carriers, commercial motor vehicles, do you know what the definition is?
Do you know how important it is?
Is it even a different event than an ordinary car crash?
I tell you what, it’s not. There’s different rules and regulations that apply. Car crashes by themselves can be very devastating, obviously as you know. We do that kind of work. Accidents with big rigs, 18-wheelers, are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and Regulations. We’re just going to call them the regulations or the rules. They’re passed by the federal government. They have jurisdiction to do it. They’re very stringent.
There’s hundreds and hundreds of rules and the companies, and the carriers, and the driver must comply. You’re going to need an experienced attorney if you’ve been involved in a truck/car accident or truck and truck, truck/commercial vehicle. These rules apply and you need to have attorneys who understand the rules. At Bell and Pollock we understand these rules, we’ve done trucking cases for years. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident we can help put your life back together again. Our telephone number, 303-795-5900.
The first thing we want to do is to lay a groundwork, a foundation, to tell you that if you’re in an accident you need to look at the driver. You need to separately look at the company. You need to look at the carrier to see what happened here.
Were they supervised properly?
Were they trained properly?
Were they hired properly?
Today we’re going to focus more on the driver and we’re going to do this in at least a 2-part series. We’re going to cover the company, but maybe not today. You know the driver, Brad. There’s rules and regulations. There’s some new changes as far as hours of service. This was all designed to keep them not being fatigued, to keep them rested, to keep them alert, so that these accidents are prevented.
Brad Pollock: That’s correct. The purpose behind the new regulations was to address the very problem that they’d been seeing. They anticipated that by the new regulations that were being passed they would save at least 19 lives, at least 540 injured persons, and about 1400 truck crashes by simply increasing the amount of time the truck driver has between shifts and reducing the amount of time that a truck driver can work during the week from 82 hours to 70 hours. Stop and think about it. You’d think this is a no brainer.
The trucking industry and certain entities are fighting the rules. They sought a rollback of this information, or these regulations. The rollback was in progress when the Tracy Morgan crash happened, because they think the fatigue might’ve been involved in that. Everybody reassessed it. Booker and Menendez out of New Jersey have said wait a minute. The Congressmen out of New Jersey have said we’re going to fight the rollback. Stop to think about it. You’re telling a person they have to be on the road or they have to be working for 82 hours in a week?
Gary Bell: Right, it’s kind of interesting, both sides of the coin. The United States Senate was in the process of attempting to roll back … meaning make more liberal, meaning remove some of these restrictions, the driving restrictions. They were under pressure from the trucking industry because the trucking industry had to have these truckers on the road.
What about the safety of the victims?
Brad, we’ve done these cases for years, and when you have a trucking car crash it is usually horrific. It is not just middle of the road, it’s not just smaller slide, it’s usually horrific. It’s devastating. When you say the statistics were estimated to save 19 lives, and all of these truck crashes, and all of these truck/car crashes, then that’s what they were designed at. They were making the situation where the drivers could not drive as much during the week. They couldn’t drive as long on each shift. That was what the whole fight was about.
Brad Pollock: Sometimes things just have to make common sense. Profit isn’t a bad word.
Everyone in business is trying to make a profit, but becoming greedy can be a bad word. That greed can be when you have trucking industries, or trucking companies, or you have companies who rely on trucking and shipping … That can be a lot of companies who supply products to you. When they become so profit driven, and they want such large profits, that they start to put at risk the people who are out on the roads that will eventually be buying the products they’re trying to ship. You stop to think about it. You’re saying, think. Think about what we’re talking about, 82 hours of work a week, 82 hours?
Gary Bell: Right, that’s a lot. They’ve reduced it to 70.
Brad Pollock: They’ve reduced it to 70 and there’s complaints. They’re saying this isn’t working. They tell them they have to let their truckers have a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours of work. How many of you go to work for 8 hours and don’t get a break at all, for a straight 8 hours?
Gary Bell: Don’t even get up and walk around or talk, or go to the water cooler, or take a break outside, or take a … Some people take a smoke break, something like that.
Brad Pollock: How many of you would agree to it?
How many of you would agree to working 70 hours a week, or even working 82 hours a week?
Think about how many hours we’re talking about. 82 hours is 8 hours a day … Well you can’t do it, in 7 days that’s only 56 hours.
Gary Bell: Right. What we’re trying to tell you is that the new rules on this particular subject … there’s hundreds of these rules, if not thousands of them … but these new rules reduce the amount of time per week that a driver can drive from 82 hours to 70 hours, and then has to have mandatory breaks, etc. There’s other rule changes as well, but we’re focusing right now on that one. One of the first things we look at … One of the first things experienced attorneys look for in a truck/car crash, which is usually devastating and horrific, is driver fatigue. The Tracy Morgan case we don’t know the facts of that, we were not hired in the case, etc., but they reported that that driver was extremely fatigued. That was the report. That’s what good lawyers look for.
Brad Pollock: The report was the driver hadn’t slept for 24 hours. We can get into it a little bit because we all know that it’s very difficult to test for no sleep. Sometimes drivers or individuals themselves do not know the consequences. They don’t understand what it means when they haven’t been sleeping, how it changes them. They can’t assess how it’s changing their ability to drive. Truck drivers themselves, in testing, have shown that they can’t assess themselves.
You have to have some hard and fast rules.
The state patrolman … I think it’s being disputed by the truck driver that he hadn’t slept for 24 hours, had been on the job for 24 hours, or hadn’t slept I think is what they’re claiming. We know probably what the state patrol worked off of. We know what the troopers worked off of. They probably went to the log books.
Gary Bell: Right.
Brad Pollock: If they got behind the log books they might have done that because there’s ways to get behind log books. Whether the driver … How he disputes what it, and what he says is a different question.
Gary Bell: It is, and we’re going to tell you in the last half of this program how you approach trying to figure out if the driver’s fatigued, because they’re not going to admit it. They’re going to deny it. Sometimes they’re taking illegal drugs as they drive. Sometimes they’re taking legal prescription drugs so that’s a whole different subject, whole different area, but it’s very, very relevant to this thing.
How do you prove somebody was fatigued?
We’re going to get into that. The statistics show Brad, just as you said, that the increase in the accidents … and these are horrific accidents, think about it. 60 miles an hour to 70 miles an hour these huge trucks rolling down the road. When I pass a truck I try to get around that truck as fast as I can. I’m not going to be beside it. I’m not going to be around it. If a driver falls asleep for just 4 seconds, think about that, 4 seconds while going about 60, 65 miles an hour. The car’s going to go about 80, 90 feet with no control of the vehicle, 80, 90 feet. That could hit into traffic. It could be in a commercial area. It could be in a residential area. It could be on a highway in a residential area.
80 or 90 feet is very significant.
One more thing is about 20% of the fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue, that’s 1/5. The most interesting thing to me is they’ve estimated this, it costs about an extra $3 billion a year. A driver who’s been awake for 17 hours is equivalent of a blood alcohol reading of .05 and if a driver has been awake for 24 hours … I think that what they said in the Tracy Morgan case, 24 hours, then
it’s the equivalent of a blood alcohol reading of .10, which is illegal. Think about that. You’ve got to get this under control. You’ve got to do this.
Gary Bell: The first part of the show was on driver fatigue. Well you say you have a big crash, it’s a horrific crash. I just told you before the break that if a driver drives 24 hours without resting it’s the equivalent of a .10 blood alcohol level. That is amazing, and that’s what was alleged in the Tracy Morgan case. 24 hours the driver was driving, alleged, so they’re going to see if that comes true. Brad, how do experienced attorneys get down to the fact of proving this driver was fatigued, because they all deny it. I wasn’t fatigued, here look at my logs, I wasn’t fatigued.
Brad Pollock: The first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you get both sets of log books. This is not meant to offend truck drivers. There’s a number of truck drivers out there who I am sure maintain honest and appropriate log books. Those truck drivers who have done that and continue to work are working for ethical companies.
A lot of times truck drivers are having to maintain a second set of log books, or play with the records, because they’ve got such pressure on the companies for whom they work to make sure that the products is delivered so they can make more profit. That being said, an experienced attorney tries to find out where the second set of log books is. That’s important because the second set of log books might actually tell you for sure whether or not this driver was getting the mandatory times.
For instance was he only driving 11 hours a day, or was he driving more?
You can also look and track the truck. You track the truck through GPS, or you track the truck through drop offs. You track the truck through times it purchased gas, or when they stopped to eat, if they did stop to eat. Some of them stay in hotels or motels at night. Where do they stay? You find out the speed of the truck and you can determine where the truck was at certain times. You can determine whether or not this driver violated the rules, or was up so long, and had so little sleep, or should be suffering from fatigue because of simply looking at where he was, and what he or she was doing, and when they were getting to different locations.
Gary Bell: Right, you made a good point there. There are a lot of ethical trucking companies out there, and a lot of ethical truck drivers. This doesn’t apply to you. It does apply to the people who try to bend the rules, and cheat on the rules, and cheat on the logs. Have an extra set of logs, one set of logs for the police, and one set of logs that are actually true.
Brad’s right, let me give you an example. You do a case where a truck driver says I was in Lexington KY at such and such a time. He ends up in Atlanta GA and on he GPS he’s in a different place, he’s in Louisville. You look at the GPS of the company … That’s why it’s important to try to get those records, many times you can get the records. Also, as Brad mentioned you look at the fuel receipts. If you fueled up in Atlanta at a certain time then you couldn’t have been in Lexington KY because your fuel receipt, and you’re the only driver by the way, your fuel receipt in Atlanta shows a different date and time.
Where were you? Where are the other sets of logs?
You have to back into it. You have to go through detailed discovery. You have to jump through the hurdles, jump over he hurdles, jump through the hoops. Then you can figure out well you really weren’t in Lexington KY, you were in this other city over here. Therefore if you drove that long, that far, to get there in that amount of time you were fatigued. There is no way you deny it because the physical evidence shows you went from point A to point B when you said you were going to point C. It’s just that simple.
Brad Pollock: You’ve got to track through.
Which way did they go?
What turns did they make?
Where were they going?
How were they going?
A lot of times you want to get that information from the truck driver. You want to get it as soon as possible. You want to find out exactly how and in what manner they got from point A to point B. Actually where the accident happened should really Gary be about point E. You want to go back, you want to say you start at point A. You went from point A to point B, B to C, C to D, D to E. That’s where the accident happened. You want to retrace he last 4 or 5 days worth of driving. You want to find out whether or not they took the appropriate breaks. Remember, after the 70 hour week … Which as of this date hasn’t been rolled back, after the 70 hour week they must rest for 2 nights. A total of 34 hours, but it’s got to be 2 nights in that 34 hours.
Gary Bell: Right, and this is all very critical and all deals with fatigue. You can back it up.
Okay, today we’re talking about this truck driver liability. We’re talking about fatigue as he first subject. It can be compounded by driving too long, but another thing people don’t understand is drivers have to do a pre-trip inspection. That’s part of your work day. That’s part of what you’re doing. Where is the pre-trip inspection on your log books? Well, then the log books are wrong. Did you have a separate set of logs? Are they hidden somewhere?
Brad said a minute ago, you left point A heading for point B, and then you went to point C, city X, city D. How much time does it take to get there? A lot of these fatigued drivers, the more fatigued they become they push it, they drive faster and faster. Then as I said a minute ago, if you’ve got some truck going 60 to 65 miles an hour, and you lose 4 seconds of conscious driving ability that truck probably goes 80 to 90 to 100 feet.
Brad Pollock: Remember that when you’re talking about … This is important to recognize, when you’re talking about the work day the truck has to be loaded and unloaded a lot of times. Now, if it’s coming a long ways maybe not, but if the trucker has been involved in the loading and unloading he’s on the job during that time period. You want to have an idea where he stopped and how long he was in wait to unload. When trucks pull up to a location to unload a lot of times they have to wait for the trucks in front of them. Other times they can get right in and unload. The amount of time it takes to unload they are on the job. That is important to recognize and anybody, once again, recognizing a long week, think about it.
We’re talking about 11 to 14 hour days, 5-6 days a week, without getting a break.
Gary Bell: Right, it’s very devastating and results in very horrible, horrific accidents. There’s many of these rules and regulations. We’re trying to cover the highlights of some of them. I’ve got to tell you something. We’ve got a break coming up but some of these regulations they pertain to emergencies. Driver hours as we’ve covered today. Driver fatigue as we’ve covered today. Medical examinations, physical health of he driver, sleep apnea, roll over training. Drug and alcohol testing, do they have to be pre-screened and tested before they even get in the cab of the truck? Yes they do. These are all covered by rules and regulations. There is a safety belt program. Driver regulations, distracted driving, cell phone regulations. We’re going to be educating you on these as well.
Gary Bell: Today we’re talking about big rigs, truck drivers, fatigue. Okay, let’s touch on a couple of different other subjects before we end the show. Brad, drivers sometimes say I was taking medication, I was taking drugs, but they’re legally prescribed. Here, I’ve got a prescription for it, that means I’m okay. That may not mean you’re okay.
Brad Pollock: No, that doesn’t mean you’re okay. As a matter of fact it has to be checked. The prescription has to be checked. You have to find out what effect it’s having on
the driver. If it’s one of those that can cause drowsiness, or can cause problems, the driver may be disqualified from driving.
Gary Bell: That’s the key word under the Federal Motor Rules, disqualified.
Are you qualified or are you disqualified? When you’re disqualified you can’t drive. You need attorneys to investigate this on these trucking accidents. Let’s touch on another subject real quick. It’s one of interest in Colorado.
Can a driver be on medical marijuana or marijuana and still drive their truck?
What do the regulations say about that?
Brad Pollock: The regulations are pretty clear on that. Nope, can’t be certified. They don’t even talk a whole lot about seeing what effect it’s going to have. Basically it’s just no you can’t be certified if you are taking medical marijuana.
Gary Bell: You can’t be certified you’re not qualified, you are disqualified. It’s important for attorneys who represent injured victims to know thes