The trucking and freight transportation industries are heavily regulated by the United States Department of Transportation. An important facet of these careers is maintaining legal and accurate log books. Log books are used not only to monitor the use of company time, but also to make sure all drivers follow specific truck driving laws, which are implemented for the safety of truck drivers and fellow motorists.
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Across the trucking industry, the federally mandated maximum for daily hours worked on the road is 14 hours. Of that 14 hours, only 11 hours can be counted for actual drive time. Other time accrued generally includes loading and unloading or stopping for vehicle maintenance. Within an eight-day period, a driver is allowed to drive for 70 hours and is required to take 34 hours off before returning to the road.
On- and Off-Duty
Time recorded in a log book includes both on-duty and off-duty time. If a driver is moving along the road, that is considered on-duty time. If a driver must stop for more than 15 minutes, whether conducting safety checks of the load, filling up at a station or dropping off or loading freight, that is considered off-duty time. In either case, this time must be accounted for in the log book and counts toward the 14-hour maximum.
Both the company for which a driver works and the Department of Transportation regularly monitor drivers' log books. While independent operators may not work exclusively for a company, they must still maintain legal books for the DOT. If a company or DOT official asks to check a driver's log and is discovered to be keeping inaccurate books, he can be issued a fine or be told to stop service immediately if found to be driving over hours.
Ideally, each driver fills in his log book whenever a change of duty occurs. If a driver makes a 30-minute stop for fuel and a meal, he must update his book to reflect going off-duty. At the end of every day, each moment of a driver's shift must be accounted for and must follow the legal guidelines set forth by the DOT. While most drivers keep a manually-maintained book, some companies are now turning to electronic log systems to help ensure accurate bookkeeping.
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