How Can Atlanta Tractor-Trailer Accident Cases Turn on Trucking Documents?

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Tractor-trailers and many other “big trucks” are not like regular passenger cars for many reasons. One among many examples, is the need for commercial truck drivers to generate and maintain many different types of trucking and shipping documents. As a trucking accident attorney who practices in Atlanta and Macon, I have seen many truck wreck cases which have centered around the various documents which are often associated with big trucks and big truck wrecks.

Some of these trucking documents may be accessed before a lawsuit is filed, while others may only be turned over only after formal legal proceedings are started. It never hurts for the attorney to ask for the documents, even if a lawsuit hasn’t been formally started. What types of documents are frequently associated with truck wrecks?

A. Shipping Documents

Truck drivers are required to have and maintain a Bill of Lading regarding the goods being transported. Why is this document important? The Bill of Lading contains all relevant shipment information – What is being hauled, by whom, where are the goods being delivered? This information may be vital if it is necessary to determine where a driver was, at what time, and whether the type of cargo he was carrying might have contributed to the accident (load shift). We have used Bills of Lading to show when a driver picked up a load of goods and prove that, relative to the time of the wreck, he was speeding throughout his route. § 373.101

B. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

• Commercial drivers need a special license called a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In order to get a CDL, a driver needs to pass certain tests and otherwise undergo more rigorous training than one who simply drives a regular passenger car. During litigation, it is important to investigate the truck driver’s CDL and determine whether there are, or have ever been, any suspensions or revocations on the license.
§ 384.204

C. Records and Record Retention for Trucking Companies

• The trucking company which employs the truck driver is required to maintain detailed records about the driver, his application for employment, his employment, his performance, and much more. § 379, App. A – Schedule of records and periods of retention.

D. Post-Accident Drug/Alcohol Testing (Often Mandatory)

*Alcohol testing of truck drivers is mandatory in many post-accident scenarios, regardless of whether the responding police officer believes that alcohol played a role in the wreck
(a) As soon as practicable following an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a public road in commerce, each employer shall test for alcohol for each of its surviving drivers:
(a)(1) Who was performing safety-sensitive functions with respect to the vehicle, if the accident involved the loss of human life; or [note NO issue regarding citation/fault]
(a)(2) Who receives a citation within 8 hours of the occurrence under State or local law for a moving traffic violation arising from the accident, if the accident involved:
(a)(2)(i) Bodily injury to any person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or
(a)(2)(ii) One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle. § 382.303.

E. Hours of Service for Commercial Drivers

*Truck drivers are limited by the FMCSA with regard to how many hours they are allowed to operate a truck in a particular amount of time. These regulations are known as ‘hours of service rules’. Drivers are required to keep logs which document when they come on duty, when they rest, and when they return to duty. Not surprisingly, the purpose of these rules is to keep tired drivers off of the roads. Unfortunately, many trucking companies urge their drivers to make deliveries as quickly as possible in an effort to drive up profit margins. We have seen numerous cases of drivers exceeding the allowable hours of service and, sometimes, even forging log documents. § 392.3: Fatigued or ill operator; § 395.1: Hours of Service.

F. § 395.8 – Logs

i. § 395.11 – Documents required when trucking company uses Electronic On-Board Recording (EOBR).

ii. § 395.16 – Requirements for EOBR.

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