As a long distance bus or truck driver, the hours you spend driving and resting must be in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. The FMCSA, a part of the US Department of Transportation, mandates the number of hours you can be on the road, the timing of rest breaks, and how many hours must pass before you can begin the cycle again. Whether you work independently or for an employer, one of your primary responsibilities is recording the relevant activities according to US DOT log book rules.
Paper vs. Electronic Log Books
Paper log books that are completed manually with a pencil or pen set the standard for recording activities in compliance with the Hours of Service regulations. Each day's DOT log book page has a grid with the hours and hour increments listed horizontally across the paper. As a commercial motor vehicle driver, you are required to mark the time you spend in each of four categories, which are listed as line items on the grid. These include:
- Off Duty
- Sleeper Berth
- On Duty (not driving)
Effective December 2017, electronic logging devices are required instead of paper. The devices are designed to record the same data as has been traditionally marked in a paper log book. The device screen is similar to the paper version with the same horizontal layout and categories. Filling out a log book is much easier, however, and doesn't require a pen or pencil. The device automatically records mileage, the times and locations of the vehicle, and whether the engine is off or on. The devices can transmit data electronically and through wireless internet services.
Supporting Documents for the Log Book
Log book data shows compliance with the Hours-of-Service rules, but you still need to collect and submit backup documents for verification. For each 24-hour period, eight documents are required. These include, but are not limited to:
- Schedules, itineraries and bills of lading
- Expense receipts
- Records of communications through the electronic logging device
- Driver payment records
Submit supporting documents for your driver log book to the carrier for whom you are driving or hauling within 13 days of the date that you receive them. The carrier is responsible for maintaining the hard copies for the time periods specified by FMCSA's final rule for electronic logging devices. Although there are a few exceptions to the documentation rules, they are rare and your best move is to verify expectations with the carrier before heading out on the road.