- Completing analog DOT logs is becoming obsolete. ELDs are electronic versions of logbooks that are more accurate and easier to use.
- Understanding how logbooks work can provide information on how to properly use ELDs.
- ELDs are included in telematics tracking software, providing analytics and other digital benefits to your fleet operation.
- This article is intended for small business owners who want to stay in compliance with the mandates of the DOT logbook.
Completing a logbook is an essential task for any commercial truck driver. Logbooks are not just company policy; it is federal law to fill them in. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects all long-haul commercial drivers to complete this information after each shift.
If you are new to the trucking industry, it is important to understand what a DOT logbook is, why it is essential, and how to complete it correctly. It is also essential to understand how electronic recording devices (ELDs) play a role in driver logs. Along with logbooks, driver scorecards ensure your team is in compliance with all regulations.
Advice: The best GPS fleet tracking systems include ELD functionality, which helps your business reduce fleet idle time, comply with DOT hours of service rules, and monitor hard braking and accelerating.
What is a DOT logbook?
The DOT logbook is an official federal document used to track when a driver takes breaks. 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 logbooks are used to enforce federal regulations regarding driver behavior. For example, long-haul commercial truck drivers have a need for sleep during a 24-hour driving period. FMCSA’s logbooks ensure that commercial truck drivers follow the laws.
These logbooks should be completed daily and are often checked by a DOT officer. If the logs are tampered with or a driver fails to complete them, the driver and the trucking company could face federal prosecution. Therefore, drivers must have good logging habits to adhere to fleet health and safety compliance best practices.
Why logbooks are important
Drivers can rule out DOT logs as unnecessary; sometimes the experience of the road can lead employees to think they know more than the government. However, logbooks are in place to protect drivers. Rider fatigue is a very real threat to long-haul truckers, and studies suggest that tired drivers pay less attention to stressful situations.
Many drivers feel pressured to get to their destination early in order to maximize the money they receive. This can create dangerous and pressurized driving environments for truckers and other drivers who share the road.
ELDs play an important role in filling in the DOT logbooks. ELDs connect directly to a vehicle’s engine and record when the vehicle is on, inactive, and in motion.
In the past, DOT logs were an analog affair: drivers recorded their hours on a designated sheet provided by the FMCSA. ELDs have digitized this process, making hours of service (HOS) recording easier and more accurate, making it easier for drivers to comply with DOT HOS regulations.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Under the ELD mandate, companies operating a fleet of commercial vehicles may be required to set up electronic registration systems. DOT officers will check logbooks and other ELD information during roadside inspections.
How often should you complete the DOT logbook?
Drivers are required to complete DOT logbooks daily. Staying up to date on HOS is essential. Keeping an accurate DOT logbook is not only the law, but an essential business practice.
With ELDs, keeping a logbook is more important than ever. It is essential that the logbooks match the ELD records, so it is very important to stay up to date with your DOT logbook. DOT agents and representatives often check logbooks to ensure they are compliant. If not, your business and the driver could face federal prosecution.
Who completes the DOT logbook?
Drivers are responsible for completing the DOT logs, and your company is responsible for keeping the logs organized. Drivers sign their logbooks when they are completed, and the FMCSA holds the driver accountable for the information.
Sometimes companies will push drivers to go outside of FMCSA rules and regulations. Because the driver signs each logbook, the driver holds the most responsibility. Drivers whose companies push them beyond the limits of the law are protected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which helps them stay HOS compliant.
Did you know? Drivers and businesses can be prosecuted for failing to follow federal guidelines for logbooks and ELD compliance.
How to complete a DOT logbook
Traditional logbooks consist of a table with four sections separated into 24 boxes. Each box represents one hour. As drivers continue through their day, they should draw horizontal or vertical lines through each status to indicate how they are spending their time. Four statuses are possible:
- In vacations
- In service (do not drive)
Here’s an example of what a logbook looks like:
Horizontal lines indicate the time a driver has spent during a certain status, while vertical lines indicate a change in status. For example, if your employee was driving from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., they would draw a horizontal line through these four boxes. If they were to go to a rest status, they would draw a vertical line up to that designation on the graph, then a horizontal line showing how long they were in that status.
For this example, let’s say your employee spent an hour on leave. Once they’re ready to hit the road at 2 PM, they’ll draw a vertical line up to the driving section and start another horizontal to track how long they’re at that status.
When the driver changes status, it is important to indicate the current location and the activity they are performing. If your employee is on duty but is not driving – charging, for example – they can include this comment in the remarks section.
Here is other important information to include in the DOT logbook:
- Current date
- Driver’s name
- Driver’s job number
- Tractor numbers
- Shipping numbers
- Total hours of the last seven days
It is often best to buy paper journals that contain only the most basic DOT information. Some logs have too many sections to fill out, and when left blank it can cause you problems with DOT.
A perfect example is the summary section, which is not an FMCSA requirement. However, if it is not filled in, DOT agents can give you a hard time. If your drivers use logs with many extra sections, you can use a hyphen to “fill” it without entering any information. This indicates that the section is unnecessary, which will help you in the event of a traffic check.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Telematics systems provide fleet operators with vital information about their vehicles and drivers, including ELDs.
How ELDs Track DOT Logs
While some companies may require drivers to complete paper logs, they are now technically obsolete. ELDs replace all of the analog functions of a paper log and can help your business maintain HOS and Service Status Record (RODS) numbers.
Here are some requirements that an ELD must meet:
- Connect to the truck engine to indicate when the vehicle is in motion.
- Select one of the following depending on the movement of the vehicle: in service, out of service, or in service without driving.
- Provide data in a standardized format to send to law enforcement via USB, Bluetooth, or wireless web services.
- Meet product specifications outlined by federal DOT offices.
Many telematics companies offer ELDs as part of their fleet monitoring offer. Telematics companies can provide real-time tracking features that include data analysis software so that you can better understand driver safety, reduce fuel costs, collect and analyze shipment data, and know the shipping data. general location of your conductors.