Despite the new legislation mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) that will apply to almost all commercial vehicle operators in the United States, there are still many circumstances which make it important to know how to fill out paper logs. Under the new mandate, drivers will be required to keep paper logs in their trucks to use if their ELD malfunctions and cannot be repaired until the driver returns to a service location.
While truck drivers beginning their careers after 2019 may never fill out a paper log, this skill is essential for understanding what functions the ELD is handling and how to perform those operations manually. Because drivers are required to certify the accuracy of logs generated by the ELD, it’s important to have a complete understanding of how electronic logs work.
This short article highlights the key points of record-of-duty tracking using a logbook.
Starting Your Shift
Completing your logbook correctly should be the first thing on your mind when your shift starts, since FMCSA regulations require that logbooks are kept current up to the last duty status change. This means that, each time you go from off-duty to on-duty, your log must be updated. Start each shift by recording the following information in your logbook:
- The date and start time of the day. Your log must indicate the hour at which the day begins. Note that the start time of the day and start time of the shift may not be the same.
- The name of the driver and, if the driver is a member of a driving team, the names of all co-drivers that will be sharing duties.
- The cycle which the driver is following must be indicated. In general, drivers can legally operate for 60 hours over 7 days or for 70 hours over 8 days.
- The license plate number or unit number of any commercial vehicle being driven during the day. Note that the license information for all vehicles in use that day must be recorded, even if there are changes in vehicle throughout the day.
- The odometer reading of each commercial vehicle operated by the driver.
- The names and addresses of both the home terminal where the driver reports and the principal place of business at which the driver is employed.
If the driver was not required to keep paper logs prior to the current day because an HOS exemption was applied, the driver should use the remarks section to record on-duty and off-duty time for each day in the previous 14 days.
Recording HOS while On the Road
To meet DOT truck inspection requirements, drivers need to update their log books whenever their duty status changes. At each moment, the driver is either off-duty (not working and free to pursue personal or leisure activities), in the sleeper berth (rest time is required for 10 hours per day, which can be split into two parts if each is at least two hours long), driving (for a maximum of 11 hours per day) or “on-duty but not driving” (for a maximum of 3 hours per day, or 5 hours when the 16-hour rule is applied).
Duty status changes and hours spent in each status are marked on the logbook grid with one continuous line. Duty status changes are shown with vertical lines, while time spent with a specific duty status is represented by horizontal lines and must be accurately tracked to within 15 minutes.
Start and end odometer readings should be recorded when the vehicle is used for personal reasons, and the “remarks” section can be used to indicate if HOS was exceeded for a valid reason (such as an emergency driving situation or hazardous weather conditions).
Finalizing Your HOS Records
At the end of the day, drivers must follow the correct procedure to finalize their log book and prepare it for submission:
- Indicate the total number of hours spent in each duty status during the 24-hour period.
- Record the odometer reading at the end of the day and total the distance driven, excluding any distance driven for personal use of the vehicle.
- Sign the logbook to verify that the information supplied therein is accurate and correct.
Most Common Logging Mistakes
To avoid making mistakes when completing your logbook, be sure to watch out for the following:
- Address field incorrectly filled out – City names must be written in their entirety, while the names of states can be abbreviated in the conventional way. Addresses must be accurately recorded and correct.
- Missing shipping documents – Drivers must indicate the bill of lading or Manifest No. of the load OR the shipper and commodity, but both lines are not required to be filled.
- Beginning and Ending City – The remarks section of your log must indicate where you reported for duty and where you were released from work on that day.
While the ELD mandate is about to make paper logs a thing of the past, it’s important to remember that this type of logging hasn’t gone obsolete just yet. Understanding the requirements for paper logs will put you in the best position to ensure that your ELD logs are correct.