Accurate Log Books Protect Truckers

August 18, 2007

Despite the hassle, keeping an accurate and detailed log book is part of the game when you're a trucker. The habit began with passage of the hours-of-service regulations in 1935.

"Although many carriers, particularly the larger ones, voluntarily limit the hours of service of their drivers to a reasonable maximum," wrote transportation economist James Nelson in 1936, "it is a well-known fact that others force their drivers to remain behind the wheel for 10, 12 and, in extreme cases, 18 hours."

Hand-written log books ensured that hours of service rules were being followed and that truckers got enough rest. Today paperless logs and GPS are replacing tattered notebooks, but the purpose remains the same and accuracy continues to be vital. Improperly filled out logs can result in citations, fines and being placed out of service.

"False log books constituted the most common reason drivers were placed out of service last year," says Stephen Keppler, policy and programs director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. "Some [truckers] run hard on their own, and some -- the shippers are driving them to do it."

Log books are an important safety tool and, some would say, a necessary evil. "You have to be a mathematical genius to correctly fill out log books today, and I'm not," says Bruce Knickerbocker, an owner-operator driving out of Thermopolis, Wyoming. Starts, stops, breaks, loading and off-loading time, sleeper berths -- the regulations can be confusing, even to a math whiz. But despite the problems in execution, the purpose of your log book is important. It protects you from overwork and provides evidence should you be sued in an accident or other matter. Keeping a neat and accurate log book is one of the hallmarks of a professional. Next time we'll give you some tips on how to do it.

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