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Are Truck Drivers Required To Keep Logs Of Their Driving Hours?

semi truck accidents washington stateThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that semi-truck drivers keep log books. These logs must include the following information:

  • All dates of duty
  • Changes in duty status
  • Locations of changes in duty status
  • Total miles driven for each day
  • Vehicle licensing and registration information
  • Name of carrier/owner/operator
  • Starting time for 24-hour period
  • Carrier’s main office address
  • Co-driver information, if applicable
  • Total hours worked
  • Off duty hours
  • Documented information of shipper and shipment
  • Graph grid (see below)
  • Driver’s official signature/certification

The FMCSA’s "Hours of Service" regulations require drivers to regularly update their logs throughout the course of each work day as well as make and retain duplicate copies of the logs. Drivers are required to keep copies of the logs in a readily-accessible location for up to seven days so that they may be inspected, as well as to submit the original copies to the carrier within 13 days of completion. The FMCSA also requires that all logs are written and submitted legibly, for obvious reasons.

Likewise, the carrier is required by HOS regulations to actively monitor these logs as they are submitted by their drivers. In the event that the carrier is using a driver for the first time or on a temporary basis, the carrier must “obtain from the driver a signed statement giving the total time on duty during the immediately preceding seven days and the time at which the driver was last relieved from duty prior to beginning work for the motor carriers.” Carriers are also required to hold onto all “Supporting Documents” regarding their drivers’ logs.

The FMCSA explains that supporting documents might include “any document that is maintained in the ordinary course of business and used by the motor carrier to verify the information recorded on the driver’s record-of-duty status.” Examples of supporting documents might include traffic tickets, shipping and receiving records, fuel invoices, and meal receipts.

In today’s world, semi-trucks are often equipped with on-board recording devices that automatically document a truck driver’s activity. Some of the activity that these devices record includes engine activity, miles driven per day, speed data, date, and time of activity. These devices also allow drivers to manually enter additional information that may be required to adequately complete official HOS records. The FMCSA also permits electronic logging devices, which require more manual entry but are more convenient and easy to save and share than simply using pen and paper logs.

RELATED: Electronic Logging Device Mandate: What It Means For Drivers

Falsified Trucking Logbooks And Noncompliance

It is unfortunately common, particularly in instances where an accident has occurred, for truck drivers to falsify their logs in order to appear to be within compliance of the HOS regulations. In these cases, the supporting documents can prove to be very useful in verifying or discrediting the truck driver’s logs. On-board ELDs are much more difficult to falsify, so those can come in handy as well.

In the event that an attorney believes a semi-truck driver has falsified his or her logbooks following an accident, the attorney will typically investigate the driver’s logs while looking for a few red flags. These red flags can help the lawyer prove that a driver falsified records in an effort to appear compliant with HOS regulations, and therefore was likely fatigued at the time of the accident. Some of these factors include the following:

Disproportionate Travel Time And Mileage

If it appears that the number of miles traveled appears to be unreasonably high for the number of hours that a truck driver has reported as being “on-duty,” there is a significant chance that the driver actually spent more time driving than he or she should have. The trucking accident attorneys at Davis Law Group, P.S., may hire experts to prove that the driver’s records do not add up and that the logbooks have been falsified.

Only Recorded Driving As 'On-Duty' Time

If a driver’s logs show that all of the driver’s “on-duty” time was spent actually driving, then there could very well be a violation of the HOS regulations. Drivers are required to log other job duties, such as inspections and loading or unloading cargo, as “on-duty” time. If it is proven that a driver has failed to properly log all of his or her “on-duty” time, then the driver is not complying with the laws and fatigue may be more easily proven.

Run Times And Locations Are Identical

If a truck driver makes a number of trips – or “runs” – within a short period of time that appear to be identical, that is usually a red flag. The likelihood that a driver would reach the same locations at the exact same time of day on different trips is very low, and is likely a sign that the driver did not accurately record his or her activity.

Inconsistencies with Company Records

In our experience, comparing a driver’s logs with the trucking company’s records can reveal inconsistencies and raise questions about compliance. Sometimes, drivers feel pressured from their employers to drive over hours or violate other federal regulations for the sake of the company’s productivity, profit, and efficiency. In these scenarios, the driver is forced to admit to either falsifying his or her logs, or that the company pressured or encouraged the noncompliance. 

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.