- Filling of analog DOT log book is becoming obsolete. ELDs are electronic versions of log books that are more accurate and easier to use.
- Understanding how log books work can provide insight on how to use ELDs properly.
- ELD is incorporated into telematics tracking software, providing analytics and other digital benefits for your fleet operations.
- This article is for small business owners who want to stay in compliance with the DOT log book mandate.
Filling the driver's log book is an essential task for any commercial truck driver. Log books aren't just company policy: filling them out is a federally mandated law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects all long-distance commercial drivers to fill out this information after every shift.
If you are new to the trucking industry, it is important to understand what a DOT log book is, why it is necessary and how to fill it out correctly. It is also important to understand how electronic logging device (ELD) drivers play a role in logs. Driver scorecards at the top of the log book ensure that your team is following all the rules.
Tip: The best GPS fleet tracking systems include ELD functionality, which helps your business reduce fleet idle time, comply with DOT after-hours service rules, and monitor hard braking and acceleration.
What is DOT Log Book?
The DOT Log Book is an official federal document used to track when a driver is taking a brake. More specifically, drivers are required to specify when they are driving, on duty but not driving, off duty, and when they are sleeping.
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These log books are used to enforce federal regulations regarding driver behavior. For example, long-distance commercial truck drivers are required to sleep within a 24-hour driving period. The FMCSA log book ensures that commercial truck drivers are complying with the laws.
These log books should be filled in daily and are frequently checked by the DoT agent. If the logs are falsified, or a driver fails to fill them out, the driver and trucking company may be vulnerable to federal prosecution. As a result, drivers must have good logging habits to follow fleet health and safety compliance best practices.
Why log books are important
Drivers can delete the DOT log book as unnecessary; Sometimes, the road experience can lead employees to think they know more than the government. However, log books exist for the safety of the drivers. Runner fatigue is a very real threat to long-distance truck drivers, and studies show that fatigued drivers are less alert to distress situations.
Many drivers feel pressured to arrive at their destination early in order to maximize the money they receive. This can create a dangerous, pressure-fueled driving environment for truck drivers and other drivers sharing the road.
ELDs play an important role in filling the DOT log book. The ELDs connect directly to the vehicle's engine and record when the vehicle is on, idling and in motion.
In the past, the DOT log book was an analog affair: drivers used to record their hours on a specified sheet provided by the FMCSA. ELD has digitized this process, so Hours of Service (HOS) recording is simpler and more accurate, allowing drivers to more easily comply with DOT HOS regulations.
FYI: Under With ELD mandates, companies operating commercial vehicle fleets may be required to implement electronic logging devices. During road inspection, DoT agents will check the log book and other ELD information.
How often should you fill the DOT log book?
Drivers should fill DOT log book daily. Staying up to date on HOS is essential. Keeping an accurate DOT log book is not only a law, but a necessary business practice.
With ELD, log book maintenance is more important than ever. It is important for the log book to match with the ELD record, so it is very important to stay updated with your DOT log book. DOT agents and representatives will check the log book frequently to make sure they are complying. If they are not, both your company and the driver are at risk of federal lawsuits.
Who fills the DOT log book?
Drivers are responsible for filling out the DOT log book, and your company is responsible for keeping the log book in order. When complete, drivers sign their log book, and the FMCSA holds the driver responsible for the information.
Sometimes, companies push drivers to go outside of FMCSA rules and regulations. Because the driver signs each log book, the driver bears the most liability. Drivers whose companies push them beyond the limits of the law are protected under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which helps them stay HOS compliant.
did you know? Both drivers and businesses can be prosecuted for failing to follow federal guidelines for log book and ELD compliance.
how to fill dot log book
The traditional log book is made up of a chart with four sections divided into 24 boxes. Each box represents one hour. As drivers continue throughout their day, they are required to draw horizontal or vertical lines through each position to indicate how they are spending their time. There are four possible situations:
- Off duty
- On-duty (not driving)
Here's an example of what the log book looks like:
Horizontal lines indicate the time spent by the driver during a certain position, while vertical lines indicate a change in position. For example, if your worker drives from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they'll draw a horizontal line through those four boxes. If they transitioned to an off-duty position, they would draw a vertical line for that designation on the chart, and then a horizontal line to indicate how much time they spent in that position.
For this example, let's say your employee spent an hour in an off-duty position. Once they're ready to get back on the road at 2 p.m., they'll draw a vertical line back to the driving section and start another horizontal line to track how long they've been in that position.
As the driver changes position, it is important to indicate the current location and what activity they are completing. If your employee is on duty but not driving – for example – loading up – they can include that comment in the comments section.
Here is other important information to include in the DOT log book:
- today's date
- driver name
- driver employment number
- tractor number
- shipping number
- Total hours of last seven days
It is often best to purchase paper logs that contain only the most basic DOT information. Some logs include too many sections to fill in, and when they are left blank, it can get you into trouble with DOT.
A perfect example is the recap section, which is not a requirement of the FMCSA. However, if it is left blank, DOT agents can give you a hard time. If your drivers use a log with several additional sections, you can use the dash to “fill it in” without entering information. This indicates that the section is redundant, which will help you in the event of a road inspection.
FYI: Telematics systems provide fleet operators with important insights about their vehicles and drivers, including ELDs.
How do ELDs track DOT logs
While some companies may require drivers to fill out paper logs, they are now technically obsolete. ELDs replace all the analog functions of a paper log, and can help your company keep a record of HOS and Duty Status (RODS) numbers up to date.
Here are some of the requirements that an ELD must meet:
- Connect to the engine of the truck to indicate when the vehicle is in motion.
- Select any one of the following depending on the speed of the vehicle: On Duty, Off Duty or Not Driving on Duty.
- Provide data in a standardized format to be sent to law enforcement via USB, Bluetooth or wireless web services.
- Meet product specifications as outlined by federal DOT offices.
Many telematics companies offer ELDs as part of their fleet-tracking offering. Telematics companies can provide real-time tracking features that include data analytics software to help you better understand driver safety, reduce fuel costs, collect and analyze shipping data, and know your drivers' general locations. Can you