The title of todays entry were the words of our classroom instructor last week in his description of the course work ahead for us and all the information we’d be required to learn in a short period of time. Now, after four days of classes, I’m convinced that he knew what he was talking about!
Today we learned about Driver Daily Logs and the rules, regulations and guidelines governing our Hours-of-Service.
Mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation driver logs are legal documents that we’re responsible to maintain and update throughout the day. These logs account for all 24 hours of our day, right down to increments of 15 minutes, whether “on duty” or not. Even our days off have to be documented as “off duty” and the logs are required to be turned into our employer within 13 days.
Truckers are held to strict rules allowing them to be on duty for no more than 14 hours in any 24 hour period. Of those 14 hours we can only drive 11 of them. In addition we cannot be on duty more than 70 hours in any 8 day period. If we hit that mark, we’re required to take 34 hours off in what’s called a “restart.” There are a few ways around these rules and ways to squeeze more time out of the day, thus giving us more miles. We just have to be familiar with the methods (legal by the way), but it can be a bit complicated. To say the least, we have to be constantly aware of where we stand in regard to these variables and it behooves us to plan well ahead in order to take best advantage of our time away from home while on the road.
Entries are made every time we have what’s called “a change in duty status.” Those changes occur when we inspect the truck, when we get behind the wheel and drive, when we stop — even if temporarily regardless the reason — and when we sleep and/or go “off duty”. In addition when these changes occur we have to document the location (nearest town, mile markers, exits etc.) We have to produce our log whenever asked for it at weigh stations, Ports of Entry or by law enforcement, and we’re told it will be a regular occurrence throughout our careers. If they’re found to contain mistakes or inaccurate information, we can be fined anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars, depending on the state and the infraction. And, we are required to pay the fines immediately! Hard to believe, but true!
Our instructor suggests that whenever possible, at least until we are thoroughly familiar with keeping these records, that we simply drive 10 or 11 hours and then take 10 hours of “off duty” time. This resets the numbers to zero and gives us a clean slate unless we run into the 70 hour/8 day rule. Sometimes however it doesn’t always work out that conveniently, then we just have to work out the best solution to keep us on the road as much as possible within the 14 and 11 hour limits.
Per our manual these regulations are designed to provide drivers the opportunity “to obtain necessary rest and restorative sleep,” while at the same time supporting “the realities of modern motor carrier transportation.” There is wisdom in the requirements but meeting them can be a major pain in the neck!
Other than spending most of our day on driver logs we did watch a couple of videos. One was a History Channel “Modern Marvels” show on the modern-day trucking industry. The other a history of the industry and it’s impact on our lives. Tomorrow we hear from an employee of the Idaho State “Port of Entry.”
I’m amazed at how much truckers need to know and what they need to do just to stay within the law. This has been an eye-opening experience, to say the least. We took five tests today on driver logs and the Hours-of-Service rules. Apparently, like everyone else in the class, I was beginning to get a headache and a bit cranky and frustrated in my efforts to read, understand and to answer all the questions, some of which were pretty complicated. “Burn out” I think they call it.