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Trucking Laws

Log Book Rules (and the Electronic Logging Devices or ELD Mandate)

Rules for truckers keeping records, the electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate and the penalties for lying on log books

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations have required that every truck driver prepare a record of duty status, otherwise called a log book.

That all changed on December 18, 2017, when the FMCSA’s “electronic logging devices” or ELD mandate took effect, which now requires truck drivers to use the ELDs, rather than physical log books, to track their hours-of-service or HOS compliance.

For years, the FMCSA regulations demanded that a driver’s log book must be in the truck driver’s own handwriting and detail his activities and duty status within each 24-hour period. Additionally, employers were ordered to maintain supporting documents to verify that the log books were true and accurate. Some truck drivers were paid by log book documentation and many fleets are maintained by them.

As the name suggests, log books recounted the history of the travel, equipment, people and problems from each trip. Breakdowns, delays, foul weather and disasters should be fully reflected in these documents.

What experienced truck accident attorney discovered, was that some truck drivers would have two sets of log books; one that outlines their true and illegal activities, such as speeding and driving beyond regulated hours of service; and another that appears the truck driver is playing by the rules.

However, as I discuss below, the advent of the ELDs has certainly changed how truckers go about documenting their hours-of-service compliance and, although it may not completely foreclose the possibility of truckers driving over their hours, the ELD mandate will make it extremely difficult for them to get away with doing it.

What are the penalties for violating the hours-of-service rules?

Truck drivers or carriers who lie in their log books, thus violate the hours-of-service rules face serious penalties, including:

  • Truck drivers may be placed out-of-service (shut down) at roadside until the driver has accumulated enough off-duty time to be back in compliance.
  • State enforcement officials may assess fines.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may levy civil penalties on the driver or carrier, ranging from $550 to $11,000 per violation depending on severity.
  • Motor carrier’s safety rating can be down-graded for a pattern of violations.
  • Federal criminal penalties can be brought against truck driver employers who knowingly and willfully allow or require hours-of-service violations.

What is required by the FMCSA’s Electronic Logging Devices or ELD Mandate?

Touted as being able to reduce the overall truck crash rate and, especially, the preventable crash rate for trucks, the ELD mandate revolutionizes how truck drivers document their compliance with the FMCSA’s hours-of-service rules.

Here’s what truck drivers and motor carriers need to know about the ELD mandate (according to FMCSA’s 2017 “Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents – Frequently Asked Questions” publication):

  • Motor carriers and “commercial drivers who are required to prepare hours-of-service (HOS) records of duty status (RODS)” are required to “comply with the electronic logging device (ELD) rule.”
  • “A motor carrier must retain ELD record of duty status (RODS) data and back-up data for six months.”
  • “FMCSA will not retain any ELD data unless there is a violation.”
  • “Motor carriers and drivers subject to the ELD rule must start using ELDs by the compliance date of December 18, 2017, unless they are using a grandfathered Automatic On-board Recording Device (AOBRD).”
  • “The ELD rule has provisions to prevent the use of ELDs to harass drivers. … FMCSA defines harassment as an action by a motor carrier toward one of its drivers that the motor carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating hours of service (HOS) rules in 49 CFR 395 or 49 CFR 392.3. These rules prohibit carriers from requiring drivers to drive when their ability or alertness is impaired due to fatigue, illness or other causes that compromise safety. To be considered harassment, the action must involve information available to the motor carrier through an ELD or other technology used in combination with an ELD.”
  • “An ELD automatically records the following data elements at certain intervals: date; time; location information; engine hours; vehicle miles; and identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle, and motor carrier.”
  • “ELDs are not required to collect data on vehicle speed, braking action, steering function or other vehicle performance parameters. ELDs are only required to collect data to determine compliance with hours of service (HOS) regulations.”

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