Next time somebody tells you they’ve got a “hot load” and you best to do everything and more in your power to get it there on-time, you may do well to point the speaker in the direction of a new story in the National Law Journal. In it, plaintiff’s attorney Kent Emison goes to great lengths to detail the vast amounts of data available to legal teams working truck-accident cases. I spoke with the Langdon & Emison Attorneys lawyer this week about the piece, which he thought held lessons for drivers and owner-operators about the value of compliance in the event of an accident.
“Anything’s fair game as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “In today’s world, there is so much electronic data that we’re not even aware of that, if you go back and if someone tried to trace your steps for the last 24-48 hours, it’d be pretty easy to do. Cell phones, emails, credit and debit card swipes…. When you talk about an over-the-road truck driver, every time that they swipe a card , make a call, an email, a text-message, that is data that goes somewhere,” that is stored somewhere you don’t have much control over.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re working for Schneider or for a small mom-and-pop company,” he adds. “There’s going to be data that can trace your movements throughout the day.”
Emison hopes that this reality will ultimately give the driver leverage over anyone who would apply pressure for him or her to “drive more than the HOS regulations that are set out in the rules.” If you do, and an accident happens, “you’re going to get caught. And there’s no way to get around it.” Insurance companies turn every stone in what Emison calls the “e-discovery process,” the amassing of data on carriers and drivers, including a driver’s movements, in service to litigants.
“What I would emphasize,” he adds, “is [the vast data available] should encourage trucking companies and truck drivers to be more safety conscious and comply with the FMCSA regulations.”
So, for the next time you hear the “hot load,” here’s a link to Emison’s journal piece. It’s written for lawyers, but a broker or dispatcher with a brain ought to be able to read between the lines.
During our talk, Emison told me he hoped he didn’t sound too much like a lawyer. “I grew up on a dairy farm. I have blue-collar roots,” says the Kansas City-area resident. Those roots included driving two-ton trucks hauling pipe and running with larger trucks on pipe loads in the 1970s. “Most of my family are construction workers or farmers, and I have many friends in the industry.”