Another Falsified Logbook, Another Preventable Truck Accident Death

Like with the patient safety violations at Gosnell’s clinic, I hate seeing articles describing tragedies that mirror my cases, tragedies would have been avoided if we simply had better laws or law enforcement.

Like the article in today’s Inquirer:

A truck driver who plowed his 77,000-pound rig into an Infiniti on the Schuylkill Expressway in 2009, killing a Fort Washington man, was charged by federal prosecutors yesterday with lying about breaks he was supposed to take on the road.

Authorities said that Valerijs Nikolaevich Belovs, 57, of Northeast Philadelphia, falsified his driver daily logbooks between Dec. 20, 2008, and Jan. 23, 2009 – the day of the accident – to conceal the fact he was driving more hours than legally allowed without a required rest.

The indictment suggests that Belovs should not have been driving when the accident on the Schuylkill occurred.

Commercial truck drivers must certify the truthfulness and accuracy of the logbooks, which are inspected by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Commercial truck drivers are not to exceed the 11-hour maximum allowable daily driving hours without having at least 10 consecutive hours of rest or off-duty time.

The indictment said this is to ensure that drivers operate their rigs in a safe, unimpaired manner to protect the public from commercial trucking-related accidents on the nation’s highways.

I have seen this exact situation before in my cases. Last time I saw it, I wrote to the Department of Transportation:

I would not be contacting you if the accident were an isolated incident, a simple preventable tragedy. I am contacting you because our investigation in the civil action has revealed that ever since [redacted] was hired by [redacted], including after the accident, [redacted] has violated and continues to violate the FMCSR regulations more often than he follows them. At his deposition, [redacted] was unrepentant, blaming the passengers for their injuries, even as he admitted to “frequently” scheduling and running trips that dramatically exceeded both the FMCSR hours limits and local speed limits. For example, he admitted “frequently” traveling to the northeast — for which he was paid a specific long-trip bonus — by way of leaving [redacted], Iowa in the morning and concluding near [redacted], Pennsylvania, a drive that cannot be completed without exceeding the hours regulations by several hours and/or by driving well over the speed limit.

It was thus no mere “accident” that [redacted] was acutely fatigued and exercising extraordinarily poor judgment while blazing through [redacted] on [redacted]: he had deliberately planned that blatantly illegal run in advance, just as he had planned and run it many times in the past. Indeed, given his testimony, I doubt that [redacted] has ever traveled through [redacted] well-rested and in compliance with the FMCSR, and I believe he still “frequently” drives this illegal run.

The driver in that case killed one young woman and severely injured another, fracturing her pelvis so badly that, while she can walk with a walker, she’s incontinent and can’t have children.

It was completely preventable, and I don’t just mean by the truck driver. The driver’s truck was equipped with a satellite tracking system which told the trucking company everything about the vehicle, including current location and current speed. But the one thing the satellite tracking system did not do was bother to do the simple math to determine if the driver was violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. They didn’t want to know. They wanted their driver to break the rules and lie about it.

Some companies care. Some companies make their systems do that simple little calculation to ensure that the company and the driver always know if the driver is in compliance and, if the driver is not, alarms start going off.

But a lot of companies don’t, and the appalling truth is that these companies have so much influence in Congress that they had prevented the Department of Transportation from issuing regulations requiring these systems be used.

So what do we get? We get people Belovs driving all night and routinely falsifying his logbook. The fatal car crash that resulted was not in truth an “accident” — it was the avoidable and foreseeable consequence of reckless management and irresponsible governance.

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