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.
In addition, state and local enforcement agencies may levy fines for hours of service violations.
Companies and drivers must realize HOS regulations were created to protect drivers and the motoring public from fatigued CMV drivers. HOS violations consistently rank in the "Top 10" violations found during roadside inspections or compliance audits. The cost of the fines can be staggering. In August 2006, a trucking firm in Franklin, Wis., JDC Logistics, was fined a record $92,000 for HOS violations.
What Should Logs Contain?
Each driver's log must include the following information:
- A vertical or horizontal graph with remark section (includes off duty, sleeper birth, driving, on duty).
- 24-hour period start time - specified by carrier/driver's terminal.
- Total miles driven that date.
- Vehicle and trailer (if applicable) number.
- Carrier name and main address.
- Driver's signature.
- Co-driver's name.
- Total hours at end of graph grid.
- Shipping document number or commodity.
A special note: driver's logs must be legible.
Retain Record 180 Days
The FMCSA requires drivers submit or forward by mail original driver logs to the carrier within 13 days after completing the form. The carrier must retain the form for 180 days (six months) from date of receipt.
The driver must retain a duplicate log copy for eight days. Furthermore, the driver must have the log copy in his or her possession while on duty.
Verifying Log Information
Once drivers complete their daily logs and submit them in a timely manner, how does the fleet manager verify the information? The following partial list of supporting documents can be used.
- Toll receipts.
- Fuel receipts/fuel card data.
- Time card/payroll records.
- Meal receipts.
- Roadside inspection documents.
- Vehicle maintenance receipts.
- Traffic violations.
- Co-driver logs.
- GPS or electric onboard device data.
It is important to bear in mind the U.S. Department of Transportation also uses this information to verify company driver logs. Keep your records up to date.
Compliance Resources Available
A number of companies provide software as well as full outsourced solutions for HOS compliance. J.J. Keller, Rair Technologies, RapidLog, and Scanware Inc., are just a few such resources.
In addition, software and services available for purchase include:
- Log Checker. A carrier-managed data-entry tool. A carrier employee enters the driver's log data. The software reviews the data for major compliance points. Reports are generated to indicate violations.
- Log Scanning. Another carrier-managed solution. Once a carrier employee enters a scannable log through the "log scanner," software checks for compliance points. A summary report is provided to the end user.
- Third-Party Log Scanning. Logs are sent to a third party to scan. The vendor provides a monthly report detailing compliance and/or noncompliance issues. The carrier can take necessary corrective action to maintain driver compliance.
- Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBR). Replacing a paper-copy log program, these systems combine GPS data and software that allow drivers to enter log data into a device/key pad built into the company vehicle.
As mentioned earlier, compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations is critical. Review the official FMCSRs for specifics. Fleet managers should consider consulting a compliance professional to review their current programs.