Transporting goods across the country is not easy. Drivers spend long, lonely hours on the road, and it’s inevitable for exhaustion to set in. In a bid to improve road safety, the US Department of Transportation limits the amount of time drivers spend behind the wheel. To enforce this rule, every driver is expected to keep a logbook to track their driving hours.
But when do you have to fill out a driver’s logbook? The regulations state that every driver must keep a record of duty (a logbook) every day unless you stay within a 100-mile radius from your office or return to the office within 12 hours.
Filling out an hours of service log is not only a matter of Federal Law for truck drivers but also company policy. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects up to date logs through the last duty change. Therefore, to avoid the hefty fines that come with violating this law, it’s best to ensure you have updated logbooks at all times.
How Often Should You Fill Out a Driver’s Logbook?
If you’re not already doing it, you should be in the habit of filling out your logbooks daily. It’s easy to become forgetful or complacent with filling out your logs because the Department of Transport (DOT) doesn’t inspect them every day.
Nonetheless, you can’t afford to push this task to the wayside because it may come back to haunt you. If you’re lucky, the DOT officer may cut you some slack for not having all your logs updated to the minute, but then again, lady luck may not be on your side. So, it’s better to stay on the safe side by keeping updated records.
And don’t just do it for the sake of it. Ensure you’re using the right procedure and take advantage of the best logging methods to make the process as hassle-free as possible.
How to Fill Out a Driver’s Logbook
Currently, the majority of truck drivers rely on paper logs to track their driving hours. A typical log is comprised of a chart with four sections and 24 boxes. Each box represents an hour.
The four sections represent the following driver statuses:
- on-duty (not driving).
To fill out the chart, draw a line in the boxes that represent what you’re doing at that particular time. For instance, if you’re driving from 9.a.m. to 2 p.m., you should draw a line across all those five hours in the driving section.
Other features of a daily log include the date, driver’s name, the driver’s employee number if it’s applicable, tractor numbers, shipping numbers, and hours from the previous seven days. However, you may come across some daily logs containing numerous sections that don’t always have to be filled out.
In such a scenario, leaving the spaces blank may get you into trouble with the DOT. Some DOT officers may not be aware of which information the driver is supposed to fill out or leave blank. For them, as long as the logs require the information, you have to provide it.
For example, the recap section isn’t an FMCSA requirement, but if your form contains the section, the DOT may require answers. Therefore, it’s best to purchase paper logs with only the basic information. And if you happen to have one with the extra details, you can insert a long dash through those sections.
The long dash indicates the information is unnecessary. So, when you include it in your paperwork, it will save you a lot of unnecessary explanations in the event of a road inspection where the officer isn’t up to date with logging requirements.
What Should Appear in Your Log
Below are some of the things that should appear in your paper log:
- Home terminal: This refers to the address the dispatcher departs from
- Main office address: The corporate address of the motor carrier
- Breakdowns and accidents: Must be documented at the appropriate time along with the city and state the incident happened.
- The log must be legible and contain your signature
- The log should be returned to the motor carrier within 13 days according to federal law.
- Spell out city names: No abbreviations allowed
- State names must be abbreviated
- Every piece of equipment must be listed: For drivers who drive multiple pieces of equipment in a day.
- Initial all changes made to the paper log.
Expected Changes in Drivers’ Log Books
With the advancement in technology, the FMCSA has seen it wise to move from paper logs and adopt a more technological process to make the process easier and more effective. According to FMCSA, paper logs will become obsolete on December 16th, 2019.
Going forward, all drivers are expected to record their logs using Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). ELDs are far more accurate and hassle-free. The devices use GPS to track drivers, which reduces most of the manual entries and possible errors. But what does this change mean for drivers and companies?
First Things First, What is an Electronic Logging Device?
If you’re accustomed to using paper logs, an ELD may sound like something that comes with a steep learning curve, especially if you’re not tech-savvy. But don’t let the “big words” scare you. Put simply, an ELD is a device that helps motor carriers and truck drivers track Hours of Service (HOS) compliance with ease.
All CDL drivers required to keep an up-to-date Record of Duty Status (RODS) must use an ELD device to document their compliance with the HOS rules.
The new ELD rules outline certain specifications and features that all ELD devices must have. These include:
- The device must be able to connect to the truck’s engine to indicate if it’s in motion
- The driver must be able to log in and select on-duty, off-duty, or on-duty not driving. However, the drive segments should be automatically selected based on the movement of the vehicle.
- All ELDs must provide data in a standardized format that can easily be transmitted to law enforcement in several prescribed ways such as USB, Bluetooth, or Wireless Web Services.
- The product must be certified and meet all specifications.
How much do ELDs Cost?
As expected, motor carriers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to utilize this new technology for their logs. Granted, these devices are much more expensive compared to paper logs. However, the FMCSA examined a plethora of options on the market to set a benchmark for which fleets should expect to pay on an annual basis. Their findings?
“Electronic logging devices ranged from an annualized price of $165 to $832, with the most popular device used today priced at $495/truck.
The FMCSA notes that while ELD prices haven’t come down drastically in the past few years, many providers are introducing less expensive fleet management system models that have features designed specifically for the ELD Mandate.”
Source: ELD Facts
To a truck driver who has been relying on paper logs for the longest time, this seems like a hefty price to pay just to track your hours on the road. But the FMCSA believes the long term benefits and economic savings are far greater than what drivers and motor carriers will spend.
Think about it, with paper reduction, it not only means less money spent on such resources but it’s also a better approach for the environment. Not to mention, with the integration of smartphones and other gadgets, logging hours will be effortless. As they say, you have to lose some to gain some. And in this case, the benefits are worth paying for!
What to Expect After full ELD Implementation
In the next few weeks, every driver is expected to have an ELD device for logging purposes. Failure to adhere to this new rule may lead to serious fines. As a result, the issue has become a major concern for truck drivers and fleets, especially for smaller fleets and owner-operators.
Most drivers are worried about the cost of compliance, but there are some who are worried about the loss of productivity and inefficient management, among other issues.
However, based on the success these devices have achieved for several companies so far, you should not expect a loss in productivity. If anything, you should expect better productivity as a driver, especially if you’ve been keeping up with your logs. With the new device at hand, there will be no surprises, and you’ll be able to comply with the HOS regulations even more easily.
Besides, ELDs will reduce paperwork significantly. FMCSA estimates that on average, a driver spends up to 20 hours a year filling out paper logs. With an ELD, you can save all this time and use it on other more important things.
Furthermore, the elimination of paperwork will save a lot of money. FMCSA expects about one billion dollars in savings per year by taking this route.
You should also expect fewer violations and faster roadside inspections. Since all the information will be recorded automatically and presented in an electronic format, it will be easier for DOT officers to inspect and understand logs. Not to mention, ELDs are way more accurate.
How to Get the Most Out of Electronic Logging Devices
With the deadline already passed, fleets and their drivers have no choice but to comply with the FMCSA regulations. Unfortunately, it won’t be smooth sailing for everyone. Drivers who are not tech-savvy may find it difficult deciding which technology to go for. It may also be hard to determine which features benefit them the most.
Don’t worry, though. There are several tips that should help you not only choose the right technology but also make the most of it for the benefit of your business.
1. Consider the Ultimate ELD Checklist
Before you consider any available technology on the market, it’s best to review the ultimate ELD checklist to make an informed decision.
In general, a reliable ELD device should automatically:
- Record engine hours
- Record vehicle miles
- Record the vehicle’s geographic information, the time, and date
- Provide driver or authenticated user identification data
- Give motor carrier identification number
2. Key Features and Functions to Look For: The Ultimate Checklist
Once you know what an ELD is supposed to do for you, you’ll be in a better position to understand the features and functions to look out for. Fortunately, the FMCSA has issued a checklist for fleets and their drivers to make the selection process easier.
An excellent ELD should:
- Retain data for the current 24-hour period
- Automatically record the driving time
- Synchronize with the engine’s control module
- Provide separate data for the manager and driver
- Prevent device tampering
- Require the driver to review any unidentified driver records
- Support electronic data transfer
- Allow the driver to obtain records on demand
- Display data for authorized officials on demand
- Provide a user manual
- Require driver annotations for edited records
For additional ELD features and functions, visit the FMCSA website.
3. Other Considerations
Apart from considering the FMCSA recommendations, it’s also advisable to think of other ways you can take full advantage of ELDs. Although it’s not a mandatory requirement, you should consider integrating your ELD with a telematics solution.
According to GPS Insight doing so will help improve driver and public safety, increase the driver’s productivity, eliminate common violations, improve maintenance management, reduce time spent on auditing books, and improve dispatch efficiency.
Electronic Logging Devices: The Bad Side of Things
We’ve addressed the positive side of ELDs and why they may be a real revolution in the transport industry. But like most things, ELDs are not perfect. There are certain disadvantages worth mentioning that you should know before using one. These include:
You Won’t Be Smiling On Your Way to the Bank
One of the major disadvantages of these devices is the cost. Compared to paper logging, the price is very high. These devices require a lot of money for installation, especially for individuals who own a large fleet of trucks.
And even though it’s possible to negotiate a lower price, the price is still too much. Small scale companies may also find it difficult to come up with the upfront installation costs, especially if they’ve been relying solely on paper logs since they launched. The transition may be a tall order.
Steep Learning Curve
Let’s face it, technology isn’t for everyone. There are those who are born knowing how to operate smartphones and there are others who can’t get the hang of technology even if their life depended on it.
As with most electronic equipment, it will take some time for drivers to learn how to use this new technology. Some may even have to undergo several training sessions to understand how the system works.
Aside from learning how to operate this device, it is crucial for drivers to learn how to troubleshoot it and fix it if it gets damaged. As a result, it may take some time before the DOT starts seeing tangible results with the new technology.
However, with correct training and determination from all parties, the implementation should be easier than anticipated.
While paper logs took hours to complete and there was a lot of manual work involved, drivers enjoyed privacy on the job. As long as they were keeping up with their records and adhering to the HOS regulations, they were on the safe side of the law.
With the introduction of the ELDs, you can kiss this benefit goodbye. Since the devices are designed to track your every move using GPS, you’ll have no privacy. Everything you do will be monitored by fleet operators and law enforcement.
However, if you look at it from the law and company owners’ perspective, this is an excellent setup. When your driver knows you’re tracking their every move, they’re less likely to do anything that would get them into trouble.
Choosing and ELD that is both affordable and able to track everything it needs to track is important. There are many ELDs that you can choose from, but some of them are better than others. One thing you must make sure of is that your ELD is FMCSA compliant.
The top 5 ELDs on the market right now are:
|ELD Name||Initial Cost||Ongoing Fees||FMCSA Compliant?|
|EZLOGS||Free (with a monthly plan)||$29.99 per month, per truck||YES|
|KeepTruckin ELD||$150||$20 and $35 plans offered||YES|
|Transflo ELD T7||$99||Plans starting at $23||YES|
|Omnitracs (IVG) Intelligent Vehicle Gateway Master Pack||$799 and up||Plants starting at $23||YES|
|Rand McNally – Electronic Logging Device ELD 50||$149||Plans starting at $15||YES|
Still Dragging Your Feet?
With the ELD deployment already underway and the deadline passed, have you adhered to the new regulations or are you waiting until the last minute to equip your fleet with the latest technology? While waiting might seem like it will buy you more time, you shouldn’t do it. The repercussions may be more costly compared to getting the device.
You may be faced with legal action and have to pay a fine. So, stay on the safe side of the law and join the rest in this amazing revolution. It may not seem like it, but it’s intended to make your driving experience easier, safer, and better.