Drivers Daily Paperwork
Trucking today is as much about paperwork as it is about shifting gears. In the olden days, every driver carried a log book to record their daily break down of hours: off duty, sleeper berth, driving and on duty not driving. [Okay, some drivers carried two or three log books, but that is discussed elsewhere.]
There are three primary documents a driver will maintain: Their Hours of Service log book, their Daily Mileage or Trip Log and their records of safety inspections.
Hours of Service (HOS) Log Book. Those same designed log books are still being used after 60 or 70 years with minimal changes in the format. There have been changes to the running total of hours calculations and most importantly to how the hours have to be logged. But the premise of the 4 rows to show the four classifications of activities has remained unchanged.
However, the growing government involvement in trucking as well as other management factors, has generated other levels of paperwork.
Daily Safety Equipment Inspections. One of the daily requirements now is a daily (safety) truck inspection form. Forty years ago, before taking starting his day, a driver would check that all the tires were inflated (normally the kick or thump test – which is completely insufficient), a walk around checking lights and a quick peak under the hood. Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires not only a detailed inspection of the truck/trailer, but that it must be logged and copies maintained in the company’s safety or maintenance departments. These inspections require checking not only the tires & lights, but verifying the conditions of wheels, tire treads, airline and electrical connections, working windshield wipers, proper functions of warning lights and indicators, hoses & belts and many more equipment issues. While the original inspections were utilized by the companies to track maintenance issues, the FMCSA now views the inspections as a papertail to the unit being properly maintained and the driver assuring that the equipment is not being out with the motoring public with known mechanical and safety issues.
Daily Mileage or Trip Logs. Among the biggest changes in truck driver’s paperwork since paperwork began are the daily trip logs. Every state has always funded highway construction and maintenance with fuel taxes collected at the pump on gasoline and diesel fuel. The theory was that the roads would be funded by the vehicles driving over them as they drive they have to buy fuel which puts the money back into the state’s highway fund. This worked for cars/trucks/buses that operated exclusively with in one state. However, when trucks operate in multi-state operations, they might buy fuel in one state but drive thru several others. The state where the fuel was purchases collected the fuel taxes, but the truck used the highways in other states. As different states passed different tax rates, it could cause the fuel in adjacent states to very substantially which would result in truckers filling up in the cheaper states.
The solution: The International Fuel Tax Association or IFTA. Discussed in detail elsewhere, the IFTA is a member organization that allows for the equalization, of redistribution of the fuel taxes to the states where the mileage was driven regardless of where the fuel was purchased. Naturally, in order to achieve this solution of having taxes paid in each state accordingly, you guessed it – paperwork in the form of daily trip or mileage log. Some larger companies with satellite tracking systems hay have this automated and many companies developed their own forms – so exact information on completing the paperwork will be provided by the companies safety or compliance department.
However, in over view, it is necessary for the driver of the truck to record the truck’s mileage each time they cross a state or enter /exit a toll road. The company then on a quarterly basis will calculate the total miles driven in each state (or Canadian Territory) and then submit the information. It may be necessary for the company to pay additional fuel taxes if, for example, the majority of the fuel was purchased in a lower tax rate state but a lot of miles where driven in higher tax rate states. It is even possible for a refund if the reverse was common. In an ideal world, it will balance out and little to no additional taxes will apply. The IFTA is discussed in more detail in another posting.
Seventy years ago, the job of a truck driver was much harder because of the equipment that was available then as compared to today’s comfort cabs. However, with the invention of paperwork – the job of a truck driver is now much more complex with Hours of Service log books, daily safety inspections and daily mileage or trip reports.