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Updated Oct 23, 2023

How to Fill Out a DOT Log Book

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer

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 Filling out a driver’s log book is an essential task for any commercial truck driver. Trucker’s log books aren’t just company policy: filling them out is a federally mandated law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects all long-haul commercial drivers to fill out this information after every shift. While trucker’s log books still exist, though, they’re largely being supplanted electronic logging devices (ELDs), which offer a near real-time view into fleet-wide activity. On top of log books, driver scorecards ensure your team is adhering to all regulations.

TipTip

The best GPS fleet management systems include ELD functionality, which helps your business reduce fleet idle time, comply with DOT hours of service rules, and monitor hard braking and acceleration.

What is a DOT log book? 

A DOT log book is an official federal document used to track when a driver takes breaks. Also known as a trucker’s log book or driver’s log book, these records are required to specify when they are driving, on duty but not driving, off duty and when they’re sleeping. 

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Trucker’s log books are used to enforce federal regulations regarding driver behavior. For example, long-haul commercial truck drivers have sleep requirements within a 24-hour driving period. FMCSA log books ensure that commercial truck drivers are adhering to the laws. 

These log books should be filled out daily and are often checked by a DOT agent. If logs are falsified, or a driver fails to fill them out, the driver and trucking company could be vulnerable to federal prosecution. As a result, drivers must have good logging habits to comply with fleet health and safety compliance best practices

Why DOT log books are important

Drivers may brush off DOT log books as unnecessary; sometimes, road experience can drive employees to think they know more than the government. However, log books are in place to protect drivers. Runner’s fatigue is a very real threat for long-haul truckers, and studies suggest that tired drivers are less alert to crisis situations. 

Many drivers feel pressure to arrive early at their destination to maximize the money they receive. This can create dangerous, pressure-fueled driving environments for truckers and other drivers who share the road. 

ELDs play an important role in filling out DOT log books. ELDs hook directly into a vehicle’s engine and record when the vehicle is on, idle and in motion. 

In the past, DOT log books were an analog affair: Drivers would record their hours on a designated sheet provided by the FMCSA. ELDs have digitized this process, so hours of service (HOS) recording is simpler and more accurate, allowing drivers to comply more easily with DOT HOS regulations.

FYIDid you know

Under theELD mandate, companies operating a commercial vehicle fleet may be required to implement electronic logging devices. DOT agents will check log books and other ELD information during road inspections.

How often should you fill out the DOT log book?  

Drivers should fill out DOT log books daily. It’s essential to stay up to date on HOS. Keeping an accurate DOT log book is not only the law, but an essential business practice. 

With ELDs, log book upkeep is more important than ever. It’s essential for log books to match ELD records, so staying current with your DOT log book is very important. DOT agents and representatives will often check log books to ensure they’re compliant. If they’re not, both your company and the driver are at risk for federal prosecution. 

Who fills out the DOT log book? 

Drivers are responsible for filling out DOT log books, and your company is responsible for keeping the log books organized. Drivers sign their log books when they’re complete, and the FMCSA holds the driver responsible for the information. 

Sometimes, companies will push drivers to go outside FMCSA rules and regulations. Because the driver signs each log book, the driver holds the most liability. Drivers whose companies push them beyond the law’s limits are protected under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which helps them stay HOS compliant.

Did You Know?Did you know

Both drivers and businesses can be prosecuted for failing to follow federal guidelines for log books and ELD compliance.

How to fill out a DOT log book

Traditional log books are made up of a chart with four sections separated into 24 boxes. Each box represents one hour. As drivers continue throughout their day, they’re required to draw horizontal or vertical lines through each status to indicate how they’re spending their time. There are four possible statuses: 

  • Off-duty
  • Sleeper 
  • Driving
  • On-duty (not driving)

Here’s an example of what a log book looks like:

Horizontal lines indicate the time a driver spent during a certain status, while vertical lines indicate a change in status. For example, if your worker drove from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they’d draw a horizontal line through those four boxes. If they transitioned to an off-duty status, they’d draw a vertical line to that designation on the chart, and then a horizontal line for how long they spent at that status.

For this example, let’s say your employee spent one hour at off-duty status. Once they’re ready to get back on the road at 2 p.m., they will draw a vertical line back to the driving section and start another horizontal one to track how long they’re at that status. 

As the driver changes status, it’s important to indicate the current location and what activity they’re completing. If your employee is on duty but not driving – loading, for example – they can include that comment in the remarks section. 

Here is other important information for the DOT log book to include:

  • Current date
  • Driver name
  • Driver employment number
  • Tractor numbers
  • Shipping numbers
  • Total hours from the last seven days

It’s often best to purchase paper logs with only the most basic DOT information on them. Some logs include too many sections to fill out, and when they’re left blank, it can get you in trouble with the DOT. 

A perfect example is the recap section, which isn’t an FMCSA requirement. However, if it’s left blank, DOT agents may give you a hard time. If your drivers use logs with many extra sections, you can use a dash to “fill it out” without inputting information. This indicates the section is unnecessary, which will help you in the event of a road inspection. 

FYIDid you know

Telematics systems provide fleet operators with vital insights about their vehicles and drivers, including ELDs.

How ELDs track DOT logs

While some companies may require drivers to fill out paper logs, they’re now technically obsolete. ELDs replace all the analog functions of a paper log, and can help your company keep HOS and record of duty status (RODS) numbers up to date. 

Here are some requirements an ELD must meet: 

  • Connect to the truck’s engine to indicate when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Select one of the following based on the vehicle’s movement: on duty, off duty or on duty not driving.
  • Provide data in a standardized format to send to law enforcement via USB, Bluetooth or wireless web services.
  • Meet product specifications outlined by federal DOT offices.

Many telematics companies provide ELDs as part of their fleet-tracking offering. Telematics companies can provide real-time tracking features that include data analytics software so you can better understand driver safety, reduce fuel costs, collect and analyze shipping data, and know your drivers’ general locations. 

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Matt D'Angelo has spent several years reviewing business software products for small businesses, such as GPS fleet management systems. He has also spent significant time evaluating financing solutions, including business loan providers. He has a firm grasp of the business lifecycle and uses his years of research to give business owners actionable insights. With a journalism degree from James Madison University, D'Angelo specializes in distilling complex business topics into easy-to-read guides filled with expertise and practical applications. In addition, D'Angelo has profiled notable small businesses and the people behind them.
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