Truck driving is a rewarding career for those who can handle the difficulties that come with the job. For a truck driver, it is reasonable to drive 11 hours a day while fighting an uphill battle with deadlines.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, did not make things easy either. Every day, the trucker had to fill out their hours accurately worked in a DOT truck driver logbook.
Here is all you need to know about these logbooks.
A quick note before we start: Logbooks are just a failsafe method since 2017 – ELDs (electronic logging devices) have completely replaced logbooks in trucking. However, keeping a paper logbook is recommended should the ELD malfunction.
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The DOT Truck Driver Logbook
The DOT truck driver logbook contains information about the hours the driver worked. It is filled in by the driver and provides information for 24 hours.
DOT logbook rules dictate that the trucker must keep track of their location and the time they spend on and off duty. Off duty information is needed to keep track of the rest the trucker has had in between driving.
There is no room for false information in a trucker logbook. Any attempt at entering wrong info may result in prosecution.
Before ELDs, the Hours of Service (HOS) logbook forms were a guarantee that the driver gets the rest they need before they get back on the road.
The Purpose of a Truck Driver Logbook
The logbook is a paper record that keeps track of the duty hours, driving hours, and time spent in a sleeping berth.
Since the end of 2017, it has become mandatory for most CMVs to have an ELD device (or Electronic Logging Device). These devices are attached to the vehicle and keep track of how long the engine has been running and the vehicle moving. Operating without an ELD device is subject to fine, and the driver risks getting the vehicle confiscated.
Another illegal thing is tampering with the ELD devices to show false information. However, keeping a logbook alongside ELD devices has been common as a backup should anything go wrong with the device.
The Information Contained in a Logbook
The truck driver logbook is reasonably easy to fill, and it includes the following information:
- Truck Number
- Name of Carrier
- Amount of Miles Driven in a 24hr period
Additionally, if the driver has used more than one vehicle, this must be logged in the logbook.
The above info is just the basics of the information required for a logbook. The trucker should provide additional info for each entry, including:
- Starting time and point of origination
- Shipment documents (Carrier name, type of cargo)
- Names of co-drivers
The truck driver must track their activities on an hourly basis in the logbook. This means inputting the progress in the graphic grid of the form for each hour of the day. The form also contains extra fields that serve for the driver to indicate their activities, like off-duty hours, sleeping, or loading/unloading cargo.
There are slight differences between the Hours of Service logbooks depending on the type of vehicle. For example, truck drivers are allowed to drive 11 hours after 10 hours of rest, but drivers who transport passengers (like bus drivers) can drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 hours of rest.
How to Fill Out a Truck Driver Log Book
The truck driver log book has a graph grid that contains the different types of activities on the columns section, and the hours of the day in the row section.
The hours section is divided into quarters for every 15 minutes of an hour. Two types of lines are used in the logbook – a vertical and a horizontal line. The vertical line represents a transition between activities (like from driving to off duty), and a horizontal line represents the time spent doing a particular activity. The graph itself should look like this when correctly filled out:
In the above example, the driver has marked with a horizontal line 10 hours off duty, then used a vertical line to jump to the on-duty section. He later marked a one-hour on-duty (not driving) with a horizontal line. The then uses the vertical line to jump to the driving section, then marks 6 hours driving with a horizontal line. The rest of the day shifts between off duty, on-duty (not driving), and driving.
Not Following FMCSA Logbook Regulation Ends in Prosecution
The driver had to correctly fill in the logbook to avoid substantial fines. Section 395.8 dictates that drivers must have a record of their activities in the logbook. Any attempt at false reports will hold the driver liable for breaking the regulation, risking prosecution.
The logbook itself requires the driver to sign it, so this makes the driver directly responsible for every incorrect sheet in the logbook. Even if the driver has been forced into signing a false logbook by a carrier, the driver will be held responsible.
The System Was Not Perfect, But It Worked
Logbooks were subject to debate and internal trucker jokes for years. The majority of truckers considered them a waste of time and that they added a layer of pressure to already tight deadlines.
The system was not perfect, but it fulfilled its purpose – to keep drivers off the road when fatigued.
With ELDs coming into the picture, the traditional logbook is everything but relevant. However, there are a few exceptions for ELD use (like driving a truck manufactured before 2000) and, of course, keeping backup logbooks should the ELD malfunction.
Below are a few logbook examples:
10 Consecutive Hour Off-Duty Break Example
A 34 Hour Restart Logbook Entry Example
For more examples like the above, visit FMCSA’s website.