Open Road Drivers Plan features a nationwide network of CDL attorneys that work hard every day to keep drivers’ CDLs clean and on the road. Houston-based attorney, Pat Monks of Monks Law Firm, is a part of the ORDP CDL attorney network and is author of CDL Citation Chat, answering real questions from real drivers about trucking related law questions. In this installment we look at logbook violations, truck driver insurance, seat belt ticket, and a DOT inspection.
Question: I got a 30 minute break log violation. Is there anything that I can do?
This question raises other questions before answering. The law requires that the logbook be recorded contemporaneous with the driver’s actual trip. A 30 minute gap could be explained. First, does the driver have an electronic recording machine that keeps the log? If so, then the log book is part of the system connected to the trucks computer analytics system. These systems are tamper proof. The large trucking companies have all incorporated these computer systems to control the speed as well. They are often referred to as a governor system. Here the driver could find himself in jeopardy of being cited if the recording device is defective or misreading at the time of the stop. In the event, the log computer system is misreading or defective, the driver needs to convert to using a manual log as soon as the defect is discovered. Courts will forgive a machine mistake, but not the driver for failing to comply with the law. If there is a manual log book involved, a 30 minute unexplained break in the log recording could be a fatal mistake. Log book violations are non-moving violations for a drivers MVR. But these violations are terrible on points for CSA scores. So can anything be done on these violations? The answer is yes. Your best courses of action is to plea to another charge and get a dismissal. But you can win these cases if an electronic recording device is incorporated. That is provided that a manual logbook is used once the mistake is discovered.
Question: A vehicle hit a vehicle that I was driving that was not insured. Although they hit me, their insurance company is placing me at fault for no insurance. Is there anything I can do?
Of course you can do something about this tragic miscarriage of justice. If you were driving a vehicle that wasn’t covered with insurance, you might want to see if your personal policy will cover the damages. But the accident isn’t your fault or your problem. You first problem is the criminal violation for driving without liability insurance. All states have financial responsibility statutes that require the driver to maintain liability insurance of a minimal amount if involved in an accident. If you don’t have insurance that covers the car you are driving, you may be cited for a No Insurance criminal citation. But you aren’t responsible for the subsequent civil claim for damages for this violation alone. These criminal convictions for no insurance have serious consequences to a driver’s record and license. A no insurance conviction could create a suspension of the license and trigger surcharges that are civil penalties owed to the state. But in no way does the failure to have insurance create liability for fault in the accident. Accident civil law is a creation of tort law from the common law system. It’s governed from civil law developed over centuries of common law cases. Unless, the uninsured driver has some other negligent conduct, like running a red light, or failing to control speed, the uninsured driver will not be liable for the civil damages for the accident. However, the uninsured driver will have to hire his own attorney to represent him, and these fees aren’t recoverable in tort law.
Question: Just got a seat belt ticket. I had the lap belt on, but I tucked the shoulder strap behind my back due to it bothering my neck. The law enforcement officer said he didn’t see it, which according to him means I didn’t have it on.
These are tough cases. Seat belts citations are considered moving violations in tractor trailers. They are referred to as a seat belt assembly system, which means a seat belt is a system that must be complied with as manufactured. If the system requires the strap be used, then the seatbelt is not used properly and the driver is in violation. The only real defense to a lap strap could be a doctor’s note. For example, a pregnant woman could have a medical reason to refrain from using the lap system. Maybe recent shoulder surgery could be an acceptable excuse. These excuses aren’t affirmative defenses. These substantiated excuses work more like a reason to dismiss pretrial, or allow a pretrial diversion agreement with the state which will allow for a dismissal of the charge.
Question: I was traveling thru a port of entry scale entering Arizona on Highway 40 west bound, where I was called in for an inspection. The officer said I had to give him my receipts or he was going to search my vehicle. In the stack of receipts was a personal one from Walmart with a time stamp on it that did not match what my logbook. I received several citations as a result. Does this seem right or legal?
The question surrounded the search of the vehicle. The officer does have a limited scope to search your vehicle. It’s possible to file a motion to suppress under constitutional reasons. The private receipt at Walmart was found with records that are kept in the normal course of business. If you refuse to supply the receipts, then you will be cited anyway. You are subject to a full inspection of the rig at any time by a DOT certified officer. These receipts are incident to the search of the records and the State does have a right to request these records. The fact you have a personal receipt is the driver’s problem. The driver should keep his receipts and records in a businesslike manner at all times. The fact the trooper found this receipt from Walmart may not be illegal, but it is unfortunate.
ABOUT PAT MONKS
Pat Monks has been an active leader and participant in the legal plan industry for over 20 years. He’s a published speaker for the industry and currently serves as president for the GLSA, and has sat with the board of directors since 2009. Mr. Monks was the charter member and founder of the Municipal Justice Bar Association of Texas and is also a member of the ABA GP Solo section of the ABA and State Bar of Texas. Mr. Monks also serves as a board member of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death penalty and attends the CPAC conference each year as a member of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, which is part of the Equal Justice USA. He remains very active with his local bar association, and serves as an election judge in Clear Lake, Texas. Legal view points and opinions mentioned in this article are his and do not constitute legal advice from either the author or Open Road Drivers Plan. The content contained in this article is for informational & educational purposes only.