The Manager’s Guide to Logbooksby Holly Plude - Published: 3/03/2017
After attending a workshop on Logbook Auditing, I realized that smaller trucking companies were at greater risk for being audited and fined. Most of this is due to a lack of training, which is easily rectified.
January 5th: Trucker Faces 20 Years After Pleading Guilty To Smuggling Alien Found Dead In Locked Toolbox
January 2nd: Police Identify 2 Oregon Truck Drivers Killed In Fiery Head-On Crash
December 27th: Iowa First Of Eight States To Debut New Truck Parking Information System
I think the greatest take-away from the workshop was the statement, “the same thinking equals the same results.” The statement speaks volumes. Today’s transportation managers need to always be asking “why”. The more questions you ask, the more answers you receive, the better your drivers will fill out their logs (whether they are e-logs or paper). I think this is especially true given how many truck driving jobs are being offered to job-seekers every day as there is an obvious need in the industry. If you want to have successful drivers in your employ, then it is imperative that you train and follow up with that training.
And let’s face a piece of reality at this point - training does not equal compliance. A trucking company can train your drivers all day every day, but if they are not following up and doing internal audits of those logs, they are not really correcting bad habits.
Keep in mind, if you have a DOT audit of your drivers logs, the auditor has discretion on what they write tickets for. The auditor could be a local law enforcement officer or a federally paid civilian. Their background could influence their perception. Also, the attitude of office staff and drivers often directly affects the auditor’s response. Taking time to go over what happens at an audit and how to respond to requests for information will play a part in what type of fines are assessed at the end of the audit.
And remember, a safety audit is not same as a compliance review. A safety audit is more educational; however, a company can still be fined during a safety audit.
Important Need to Know:
- A driver’s daily log is a legal federal document.
- Falsifying a log can cost a driver up to five years in prison.
- If a company driver also punches a time clock, then time sheets must also be audited, and must match logbook entries.
- Even minor violations should have documented disciplinary action.
Let’s examine some of the commons errors and work out how to correct them. Keep in mind that these are all offenses that may constitute a fine during an audit.
- We all do it, we write 2016 instead of 2017 or April instead of August. However, since this is a legal document, the date must match when the driver worked.
Name and address line not filled out correctly
- The drivers will likely find this the most tedious part of the log entry and try and short cut it. Unfortunately, shortcuts will cost one money during an audit. For a delivery driver: the address must be of the main office and then of the starting location. That means, if your load starts out with a shuttle driver in Indianapolis, IN where it is handed off to the delivery driver in Toledo, OH, the first address is the full business address of Indianapolis and the second address is the delivery driver’s starting location.
- Paper logs, while not as common today as they were even five years ago, still exist and if you use one, you must count drive time, off duty time, and on duty time and make sure it matches what the lines on the grid show. The lines cannot add up to 10 hours’ drive time, 4 hours on duty time, and 10 hours off-duty time and then have digits recorded such as 9/3/12 (respectively).
- This is more of a subjective rule but neatness counts!
Ancillary jobs must go on the daily log.
- If you know that one of your drivers has a second job, you are must make sure it is documented in the daily log. If the driver does not have a full ten hours off duty between the end of his last job and the start of his next, and is involved in an accident, the liability falls on the company he is working for at the time of the accident. Why? For not making sure your driver had sufficient time off to allow for adequate rest.
All loads must be dispatched in a legitimate time frame.
- Ah, the bane of any driver’s existence. That one dispatcher who swears up, down and sideways that you CAN make it from Memphis, TN to Los Angeles, CA in two days. It is a 25-hour drive straight across I-40. With an 11 hour driving limit per day it is going to take a little over two days to drive that route (unless it’s a team driving). If the driver pushes it and makes the delivery in two days but is in an accident, the company that dispatched the load can be in just as much trouble as the driver for not dispatching in a safe manner. That means dispatch must route for speed limits, known weather conditions, and federal hours of service regulations.
- Within the grid, city names may NOT be abbreviated, however the state can be.
- When the driver stops, they do not have to write down what they is doing at that stop, unless it is due to an accident, roadside inspection or a breakdown.
- If, during an internal audit (performed by the transportation manager or their proxy), any errors are noted, those errors may only be corrected by the driver. The driver must then initial all changes. If the transportation manager (or proxy) makes changes to that log they are falsifying the log, which is illegal and punishable by stiff fines.
- Breakdowns are always documented as on duty not driving until towed or fully relieved of duty.
- A pre-trip inspection should only take five minutes because the post trip inspection is thorough.
- When telling a driver he is off duty, specify what that means for the truck. Parking brakes, lock, where to park, etc.
It seems like a huge nuisance and it would be easier just to go to electronic logs. Many would agree electronic logs are easier to work with, however, they still must be audited and have corrections made. And unfortunately, drivers still find a way to falsify electronic logs. So, you must always be vigilant.
Fine and Penalties
What will a fine or penalty look like monetarily is the question most often asked. In all reality, the FMCSA has a lot of caveats before assessing a fine. These include:
- Nature of the violation
- Ability to pay/effect on ability to stay in business
- Public Safety
The FMCSA provides a handy 52 page manual to help navigate the waters of penalties. The short of it is that penalties can range anywhere from $250 to $10,000, per occurrence. If a company has a driver who writes the wrong date on their log every day for a week, that equals seven days times seven errors. (Of course, not every every auditor is going to react the same way.) One should audit their logs as if they are going to encounter a very strict auditor. Additionally, one should never assume that because you haven’t been fined before you won’t be fined now.
In today’s transportation market, truck driving jobs are growing at a rate of 5%. The BLS posted that in 2014 there were 1,797,700 trucking jobs. That means by the end of 2017 some 90,000 new trucker jobs will have been added. With the ever-growing industry of commercial trucking pervading into all aspects of American commerce, making sure one knows how to handle their logbook and subsequent audits is essential.