I just returned back the office after a productive week of learning and speaking at the 2018 Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys Symposium, which was attended by a great crowd of around 275 truck accident attorneys from around the country. I presented on “Understanding Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Devices” and I always learn so much in preparing to present. I hope the attendees found the presentation valuable and can immediately use aspects of it to further help their clients who have been injured or killed in truck crashes. The focus of my presentation was how to understand and drill-down the 11-hour driving rule, the 14-hour on-duty rule, as well as the maximum on-duty times of 60/70 hours per 7/8 day period. We then reviewed how to apply those rules using facts from a real case.
Rounding up the presentation, we looked at the mandatory electronic logging device regulations, which went into effect in December, 2017. Now all trucks (excluding pre-2000 engines and tow trucks) must install and use electronic logging devices to monitor maximum driving times, on-duty time, off-duty time and sleeper-berth time. Although the implementation of electronic logging devices is a step in the right direction, they are still ways around the imposed limits and they do not adequately address some underlying factors that also contribute to increased risks, like lack of detention pay when drivers are forced to wait at loading docks without pay. Often, delays in loading put truckers behind schedule and may contribute to driving too long and too far when shippers and motor carriers refuse to adjust or modify delivery times accordingly.
We also had a several preeminent speakers bringing us up to date on the latest trucking safety technology, changes in regulations, trial advocacy and a review of the recent verdict by my friend Eric Penn in a case where Werner Transportation allowed a student driver to operate a nearly 80,000 pound 18-wheeler on dangerous, icy highways at 55 miles per hour, despite the fact that the commercial drivers license manual requires trucks to slow to a crawl in those conditions. Werner Transportation required the student driver to continue on at unsafe speeds because the load was scheduled for “Just in Time” delivery and they would get paid more if it made it on time. Werner also could have easily routed the truck on an alternate route across Texas where the roads were not icy. Had the Werner truck been traveling at a safe speed, it could have easily avoided crashing into a motorist who lost control on the ice. Eric showed great courage in tenacity in holding Werner responsible and I am inspired by his work.