In my previous article, I gave a general rundown on what you will need to know when getting into the training segment of your career. Over the next few articles, I’ll get into more detail about things you’ll be learning.
Hours Of Service Regulations
To begin, truck drivers have a limit on how much driving they can do each week.
Once you begin your day you have a 14-hour clock that runs continuously. No matter what you do during that time, the 14-hour clock still counts down.
You can not drive after 8 hours without taking a 30-minute off-duty break at some point during that 8 hours. In order to avoid having to take two breaks, if you’re planning on driving 11 hours, it’s best to wait until after you’ve been driving 3 hours or more before taking your break.
Once you’re done for the day you need a minimum of a 10-hour break before you get your 14 hours back.
Each week you have a total of 70 hours. This includes driving time and on-duty time. On-duty consists of things like getting fuel, loading, and unloading, or any activity you do that is job-related but isn’t driving. Once you go over the 70 hours you can not drive anymore until you have hours available to do so. You can be on duty as much as you like, whether you have hours available or not, you just can’t drive.
As it stands right now, you can do a log reset anytime you want to. This involves taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty and will give you your full 70 hours back once that is complete. However, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is attempting to set it up where you can do only one reset in a week, arguing if you do more you will be able to drive more than 70 hours that week. Personally, I don’t see how taking more than one 34 hour break translates into having more hours to drive each week considering you still have to take at least 10 hours off each day, but that is what their math says.
There are some things you can do to extend the 14-hour day, such as split logging, and other little tricks to save time but that is something your trainer will have to get into with you.
Your logbook is where you keep a record of your activities over a 24 hour period. It’s a federal law that all truck drivers, except local drivers, must keep an up-to-date log and when you get pulled into a scale house, or get pulled over on the road for an inspection and/or to have your paperwork checked, the first thing the inspector is going to ask is to see your logbook. It is supposed to be kept current as of your last change of duty status. An example of a change of status is going from driving to off duty. Most of the time they will allow you to update the log up to the time they pulled you in. They are very serious about logs so you want to keep it legal. If it isn’t the inspector can and will shut you down for 10 hours as well as writing you a ticket. It will also go on your CSA score.
CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) is a system that was implemented a few years ago that grades a driver and company on many things, such as passed or failed inspections, accidents, and just about anything having to do with the job. So if you get any ticket, even in your personal vehicle, it will be on your record for any company to see and it could cost you your job as well as prevent you from getting a job with another company.
So you see, you want to keep your record as clean as possible so you must make sure your log is legal. The log department in most companies takes it very seriously too and if there is one place in a company you don’t want to anger, it’s the safety/log department.
Many companies use e-logs. These are done through your qualcomm or whatever satellite communication system your company uses. These are good because you don’t have to keep the log by hand so there is a lot less chance to make a mistake. The e-log will put you on driving automatically after a certain distance, the distance being something the company will determine. After driving, once you turn the key off, it automatically puts you on duty so you have to manually put yourself off duty. Otherwise, you’ll come out from lunch and see you lost 30 minutes off of your allotted 70 hours for the week.You need to approve your logs in the system at least once a day but I recommend you do it every time you stop because at the end of the day you will have a long list of things to scan through to make sure they are correct and by then you may be pretty tired and not see mistakes before you approve them. So do yourself a favor and update them as you go through the day. You are able to edit your sleeper berth, off-duty and on-duty not driving sections but it’s easier if you just make sure things are good to go to begin with. With most companies, if you edit anything, you have to also give a reason for the edit.
One of the big differences between e-logs and paper logs is that everything in a paper log is done in 15-minute blocks. So if you stop for 10 minutes you still have to log it as 15 minutes, so you just lost 5 minutes at that stop. With e-logs, everything is done in 1-minute increments and over the course of a week, each minute you save can add up and result in the opportunity to make more money.
There are drivers out there that don’t like e-logs but I would guess they have never tried them. They argue it will hurt their income. The logic makes no sense because of the 1-minute system it uses and it does give you extra time to work with. Before my company switched I was totally against e-logs. Once I got one I loved it. It does make for a lot less work. There is no way I would ever drive for a company anymore that uses paper logs.
Another advantage, the e-log will not let you work illegally. It will warn you before you get into that situation. For example, it will alert you when you are 1 hour from your allotted driving time or 14-hour limit, then again when you’re 30 minutes away and again when you’re 15 minutes away. If you do run illegally it will be your decision and an inspection officer will know it.
There is a 2-hour exemption, the safe haven rule, that can be used to drive over your 11 hours but that is something your trainer will have to go into. However, here is where you get an explanation of the rule. If it doesn’t make sense right now, don’t worry about it. Ask your trainer to go into it.
So, when looking for a company I would recommend asking if they use e-logs or paper logs. Any company using paper logs will have to switch eventually since the FMCSA has mandated them being used in all trucks but many of the major companies have already switched or will be switching voluntarily. It’s still being fought in the courts.
You may hear that with e-logs you will have to drive faster and more reckless because of the time limitations, etc., but whether you use a paper log or e-log, you still have the same laws and regulations you have to follow. The difference is you can cheat with a paper log, and if you want to do that, do it at your own risk. If the inspector feels you have intentionally falsified your log you can be arrested and put in jail. The log book is a legal document and, like any legal document, misrepresentation can cause you a lot of problems, so it’s better not to risk it.
Another thing many drivers don’t think about. An inspection officer can determine your average speed by figuring out how long it took you to get from one place to another based on your log. So, if your log says you traveled 140 miles in 2 hours, and the speed limit along the route you took is 55 MPH you will get a speeding ticket. So just make sure you watch the speed limits wherever you go.
As I mentioned briefly before, when you have a CDL any ticket you get in your personal vehicle will also be added to your CSA. The FMCSA figures how you drive your car represents how you will drive a truck so all that information is kept.
Hopefully, you understand truckers hours of service and legal issues a little better.
Feel free to ask a question in the ‘Ask Question’ section of the menu bar above. If I left anything out I hope other drivers will mention them.
The next article will deal with inspection issues.