Since the federal government started regulating the number of hours a truck driver can legally drive in a day, requiring either paper logs or higher-tech records, some motor carriers and truckers have devised ways to skirt the rules by falsifying drivers’ log books.
This week’s episode of Long-Haul Crime Log delves into a recent case involving the owner of now-defunct Sisic Transport Services (STS), as well as a look back at the outlaw days before ELDs when some carriers and drivers used multiple logbooks to document their hours.
Damir Sisic, 29, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was sentenced to three years of probation after admitting he routinely altered thousands of entries collected by his trucks’ electronic logs to conceal drive time and on-duty hours for his drivers.
Sisic admitted to prosecutors that he made thousands of edits to his drivers’ logs using Omnitracs’ automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) software, a precursor to electronic logging devices that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) forced all motor carriers to adopt by December 2019.
AOBRDs allowed company officials with edit rights in the online system to log in and change any portion of a driver’s hours-of-service record or electronic log, according to court documents.
Court documents alleged that Sisic provided altered driving records to an Oklahoma state trooper who was investigating a fatal crash involving an STS driver in Oklahoma on April 22, 2018. Prosecutors claimed that from April 12 to April 22, 2018, Sisic edited the deceased driver’s logbooks to “remove and conceal actual drive time.”
Prior to the driver’s death, he texted Sisic, stating, “Please don’t forget to fix my logs, I have 1:51 left.” Sisic responded back, “I fixed you got 5 hours just update hopefully it’s enough,” according to court filings. So Sisic took care of it. He altered the driver’s electronic log, something he did thousands of times for his drivers. He gave him five more hours. The driver would soon be dead.
During a compliance review in late October 2018, Sisic provided an FMCSA investigator altered hours-of-service records for his drivers, which contained the fraudulent edits he made to the electronic logs.
The messages between Sisic and his drivers as well as the practice of altering logs continued more than a year after the STS driver’s death, according to court documents.
For example, on April 16, 2019, a driver texted Sisic that he was “falling asleep at the wheel…no good.”
“I understand dispatch is difficult but this just killz a driver . . . not safe, not legal, just ridiculous… I’m tired of it,” the driver texted Sisic.
The driver then sent a message, “When it’s late . . . don’t call my phone screamin/yelling cuz u know this is bs . . . . 1400 miles.”
Later, the same driver messaged Sisic, “Just send some hours that I can use today if u can.”
Sisic responded, “Looking at log now give me a few minutes.”
Trucker had four sets of books following crash
Years before truckers were required to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their trucks, carriers and drivers used paper logs to document their hours.
In May 2012, Valerijs Nikolaevich Belovs, 58, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for falsifying his logbooks — investigators found that he had four sets — following a fatal crash on the Schuylkill Expressway in January 2009 in eastern Pennsylvania.
Court documents found that Belovs had driven cross country — 9,600 miles in 10 days — with deficient brakes. Records show he called the owner of the truck, Victor Kalinitchii, 89 times from the road, complaining about the condition of the truck’s brakes prior to the crash, but was urged to keep driving.
On the day prior to the crash, prosecutors claim one of Belovs’ logbooks stated that he was in the sleeper berth of his truck in Wytheville, Virginia, when he was actually driving to Pennsylvania.
On the day of the crash, Belovs was driving in rush-hour traffic when his brakes failed and he struck a vehicle, killing the driver and injuring others.
Kalinitchii, the owner of the truck, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and other charges after the brakes on the truck failed, causing the crash.
So why do some carriers and drivers skirt the law and cook the books?
Find out why on this episode and subscribe by searching for Long-Haul
Long-Haul Crime Log, FreightWaves’ weekly true-crime podcast, delves into Sisic’s case and the push to keep driving past legal limits in its latest episode.
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