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Safety & Accident

Who's Looking at Your Logs?

Noncompliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service regulations can carry stiff penalties. Reviewing company drivers’ Records of Duty Status or Logs is critical.

May 2010, Work Truck - Feature

by Mike Butsch - Also by this author

For many of us in fleet management or fleet safety, paperwork is a way of life. Whether managing simple renewals of non-regulated fleet vehicles or the flow of documents for a regulated fleet, paperwork, and more recently, data from electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) are part of our daily routine.

Ensuring you have all required documents is the first task. The second task is reviewing the documents for accuracy and completeness. A critical part of a compliance process is verification of driver-provided information.

Reviewing drivers' Records of Duty Status or Logs is critical to the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This article assumes a company has determined its CMV drivers log daily and fall under "interstate" rules.

Exceptions are available to how and when drivers must log, but keep in mind these exceptions create many unique challenges to an audit program. Carriers must ensure exceptions meet all required qualifications. Many carriers, after exploring the exceptions, simply require their CMV drivers complete a daily log. Refer to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), Part 395, Hours of Service of Drivers, for more details on exceptions.

Who Must Comply?

First, a brief refresher on who is subject to and what vehicles are affected by government regulations of interstate activities. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advises in FMCSR 390.3 the company and driver involved in transporting property or passengers in interstate commerce are responsible for all CMV regulations compliance. Companies must educate employees and drivers on regulation compliance. A company may not allow a noncompliant driver, in this case the Hours of Service FMCSR 395, to operate a CMV.

The only way a company can ensure regulations are not violated is through an Hours of Service data audit. Pleas of ignorance may be viewed by the government as willful or negligent under certain circumstances.

Which Vehicles are Covered?

Summarizing FMCSA 390.5, a CMV is defined as:

  • A vehicle or combination vehicle gross weight or rating of 10,001 lbs. or more.
  • A vehicle carrying eight passengers (including driver) or more for compensation.
  • A vehicle transporting more than 15 passengers (including driver) not for compensation.
  • Any vehicle (any size) hauling HAZMAT in quantities requiring a placard.

Hours of Service Limited

Hours of Service (HOS) have key limits that play a role in understanding what to audit. For this article's purposes, a "day" is defined as a 24-hour period, i.e., from midnight to midnight. The 24-hour period may be defined by the carrier, but should remain consistent to allow accurate HOS calculations. A summary of HOS rules (FMCSR 395.3) includes:

  • 11-Hour Driving/14 Consecutive Hours on Duty rule. Drivers are permitted to drive a maximum of 11 hours within 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty. A driver must have 10 consecutive hours off duty before he or she may drive again. The driver may continue to work, but may not drive a CMV as part of that work.
  • 60/70 Hours of Service rule. The 60-hours rule states a driver may not operate a CMV once he or she has reached 60 hours of on duty time in seven days. If a company operates seven days per week, it may utilize the 70-hour/8-day rule. Once a driver reaches 70 hours of on duty time in eight consecutive days he or she may not operate a CMV. The driver may continue to work, but may not drive a CMV as part of that work.
  • 34-Hour Restart. The 34-hour restart rule allows a driver to reset his or her 60-or 70-hour clock at any point during the seven- or eight-day period, once he or she has received 34 consecutive hours off duty.

Penalties Can be Stiff

Driver or company noncompliance with FMCSR Hours of Service rules are subject to a wide range of penalties:

  • Drivers may be placed out-of service or shut down until they accumulate enough off-duty time to return to compliance.
  • The FMCSA may fine the driver and/or company civil penalties ranging from $550-$11,000 per violation depending on severity.
  • Federal criminal charges may apply to drivers or company management who knowingly or willfully allow or require hours of service violations.

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