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Can A Truck Driver Still Use Paper Logs

Today we’ll discuss some scenarios when an electronic logging device (ELD) isn’t required and you can still kick it old school. There are five different situations when drivers can use paper or nothing at all. Let’s get stared.

Can truck drivers still use paper logs?

Drivers can record their hours of service manually on a paper log instead of using an ELD when operating a CMV when:

  • When a log is not needed more than 8 days in a 30 day period
  • In a driveaway towaway operations
  • The vehicle was manufactured before model year 2000
  • ELD malfunctions and diagnostic event

There are certain times when you’re not going to need to use an Electronic Logging Device or ELD. To the dismay of most people, those times are going to be few and far between since the use of ELD’s has been mandatory in December of 2017.

Is there still some confusion?

There are is still a lot of confusion with some drivers and companies on when they have to use an ELD and when they can just use the old school logbooks.

Here’s a quick breakdown on ELD exceptions:

Not needing a logbook more than 8 days in a 30-day period

This is pretty straight forward exception.

If you’re a driver that only drives just a few days out of any given month, you can keep using a paper log just like the good ‘ol days.

Here’s a couple of scenarios that I’ve come across over the years of the type of drivers who would be exempt from the rule. There are probably other examples, but these two are the most common.

Company mechanics

Larger companies that have operations in more than one state may require that their mechanic jump in a company truck and drive to a shop in another state or out of the 100 air mile radius.

If the shop truck or service truck meets the definition of a commercial vehicle then all the rules apply, even hours of service.

Spoiler alert: Most shop trucks or service trucks will fall under the cmv definition because of both the amount gear they carry and the gvwr of the vehicle.

But because it doesn’t happen all the time, the rules make an allowance for just using a paper logbook and not having to install an eld.

Retailers, small trucking operations

Another example of occasional interstate drivers are small retailers who transport products from one state to another but only do it about once a month or so.

For example, a small retailer has a small box truck and normally transports products in the Los Angeles area, but once a month take his products to sell in Las Vegas.

These trucks and drivers fall within all of the rules for commercial vehicles and hours of service, but don’t need an eld, because they don’t make this trip more than 8 days in any given month.

green truck on highway

Driveaway Towaway Operations

What is a driveaway towaway operation?

A Driveaway towaway operation is a type of transportation in which the empty or unladen commercial vehicle has one or more sets of wheels contacting the road surface is being transported.

What that means is that these types of operations are where the vehicle itself (truck or trailer) is the commodity being transported from a manufacturer to a facility, dealership or someone who bought the vehicle.

For the purposes of the ELD rule, if the vehicle itself (the truck tractor, power unit whatever you want to call it) is the product no ELD device is required to be installed in the vehicle.

Keep this in mind;

When you read the eld rule it specifically says “the vehicle being driven is part of the shipment being delivered”.

If you’re using a company truck that’s used all the time to deliver other trucks or trailers in a driveaway towaway business, then you won’t be able to claim this exception.

Why is that?

Because the truck you’re using is a company truck used to deliver other vehicles in your business. It’s still a company delivery truck, so it would need to have an ELD device installed.

This is an important distinction to make with the rule.

Trucks manufactured before model year 2000

This part of the rule made these old vehicles valuable again!

But here’s the problem;

Buying older trucks and refurbishing them may be more trouble than it’s worth. When you consider some weird and tough environmental rules that some states are enacting (we’re looking at you California) an old truck can turn into a money pit.

It would seem that many trucking business people agree;

At a recent conference, an official from FMCSA stated that they aren’t really seeing any substantial uptick in the amount of the vehicles actually being used.

But, for those owner operators that happen to find that ‘diamond in the rough’ truck that was manufactured before model year 2000, give it a shot.

Make sure that the VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number) reflects the year it was made and not just the sticker on the doorjam.

trucks on highway

ELD malfunctions and diagnostic events

The final scenario where a driver will need to prepare a paper log is if the electronic logging device fails to work or has some kind of ‘diagnostic event’.

When an eld fails to work properly the driver is required to get out paper logs and start hand logging. In fact, you’re going to need to keep some paper log page with you specifically for this purpose.

Here is the list of driver’s responsibilities when the electronic logging device breaks:

  • You need to note the malfunction of the ELD and provide your company with a written notice within 24 hours of the problem.
  • Depending on when it happened, you’ll need to reconstruct you logs for the current 24 hour period and the previous 7 consecutive days. However, if you have the log pages and they are retrievable from the ELD, you only need to reconstruct what your missing.
  • You must continue to keep a paper logbook (or as they refer to it in the rules a ‘manual record of duty status’) in accordance with the rules until the electronic logging device unit has been repaired or serviced and brought back into compliance.

What is an ELD diagnostic event?

An electronic logging device malfunction can be anything from the unit completely going out to loss of signal or any other number of problems.

A diagnostic event in the device deals more with the data that’s collected. If the ELD indicates that there’s data inconsistency it will generate a ‘diagnostic event’. If this happens, the driver is responsible for following both the motor carrier and ELD manufacturers recommendations for resolving the problem.

Remember this;

There is a list if things that are drivers are required to do anytime there is any kind of a problem with the logging device.

Can you beat an ELD?

In the short term yes. But it will all catch up in the end with those who seek do this, because it’s not hard for an investigator to figure what’s been going on.

Remember that if you’re stopped and inspected for hours of service compliance while the ELD is down, you must provide the enforcement official with all appropriate logs as required by the logbook rules.

Drivers not required to keep a log under the 100 air mile and 150 air mile short haul rules

If you’re a driver that falls under either the 100 air mile radius or the 150 air mile radius for non CDL drivers, you’re not required to keep a logbook. If you’re not required to keep a logbook, you don’t need an ELD.

If you meet all of the following, you can take advantage of the 100 air mile radius rule:

  • You operate within a 100 air miles of you work reporting location
  • The driver returns to the work reporting location and is released from work within 12 consecutive hours.
  • The driver has 10 consecutive hours off duty separating each 12 hours on duty (property carrying vehicle).
  • The driver doesn’t exceed the maximum driving time of 11 hours (property carrying)
  • The motor carrier keeps accurate and true time cards for 6 months with all the information required by the rules.

Drivers that aren’t required to have a CDL for the vehicles they drive can take advantage of the 150 air mile radius exemption. This is for property carrying vehicles only.

  • Driver operates a vehicle that a CDL is not required
  • The driver is operating within a 150 air mile radius of the their work reporting location
  • Driver returns to their work reporting location at the end of each shift.
  • The driver doesn’t drive after the 14th hour after coming on duty on 5 days of any period of 7 consecutive days.
  • After the 16th hour after coming on duty on 2 days of any period of 7 consecutive days.
  • The motor carrier maintains proper time records as required by the rules.

If the driver doesn’t meet the criteria, you must fill out a logbook which means you’ll be subject to the ELD rule.

white commercial vehicle on highway

Can a driver use a smart phone or tablet to record their hours?

Yes. A driver can use either a phone or tablet as an eld as long as it can access the vehicles system through Bluetooth and meets the ELD requirements.

In fact a lot of the newer ELD manufacturers utilize tablet in their elog systems. It makes it easier to hand an enforcement person a tablet versus having them climbing into the cab.

Here’s where the confusion has been in the past;

A smart phone or tablet with just a logbook app alone does not meet the requirements of an electronic logging device.

Remember that the device must meet all the requirements in the rules which means a minimum the device has to be tied in with the vehicle engine.

What about the small carrier ELD exemption?

A bill was introduced in the U.S. House on May 23, 2018 (HR5948) to try and provide some regulatory relief from the ELD rules to small trucking companies.

If the bill does go into effect, it would allow carriers with 10 or fewer trucks to continue to use paper logs and not electronic logging devices.

As it stands at the time of this writing, the bill is still in the beginning stages of the legislative process. It will need to pass both the house and senate in order to get to the president’s desk for signing.

It will be interesting to see how far the legislation goes, but the early prognosis isn’t good.

Here’s to hoping.

24 thoughts on “Can A Truck Driver Still Use Paper Logs”

  1. How can you get past the 11-hour rule when you hit run into Mountain weather traffic anything that’ll slow you down to make your required distance for that day when pulling a heavy load get into Mountain train you lose a lot of time major downfall for E log concerned semi retired old school Trucking how can you still get 3500 the 5000 miles a week when he log is a requirement now I was a back logger and would run 750 miles per day or more with the new elog how can you still do that

    1. Long story short you can’t. That is part of the reason for the mandate. The FMCSA is not concerned if you are getting enough miles to pay your bills only with how many hours you are behind the wheel. So if you spend 11hrs at 35mph or at 70mph those miles are all you get.

      1. Hi Rich, thanks for stopping by! You don’t always have to use an ELD, it’s just that are very specific circumstances that have been outlined in FMCSA regulations.

        1. Katherine henderson

          Where are the paper logs sent to,? What type of monitoring, auditing of paper logs

          1. Paper logs aren’t sent anywhere, they must retained the carriers office for at least six months.

  2. Is there a limit to how long you can use paper logs if you’re driving a rental truck while your truck is being repaired?

    1. No, as long you don’t make more than 8 trips in a month that require a logbook. Once you’ve hit that threshold, you must use an ELD.

  3. Steven C Woodrome

    I work for a company that sells buses. I deliver them and am required to have a CDL. Since what I am driving is the product do I need to log ? Will a paper log work in this situation ?

    1. Check out the bullet points at the top of the article – If your in driveaway-towaway operations, you can use paper.

  4. Im driver for a private not for hire not for profit organization. It’s like a professional marching band.
    We use rental trucks to go from competition to competition. Is a ELD necessary or can we legally operate with paper logs?

    1. If what you’re doing is outside of the parameters of the regulations listed in the article, you must use an ELD.

  5. I will be driving a truck that currently has a Bluetooth eld installed in it. I fall under the 8 day exemption. When using paper logs should the eld remain plugged into the truck, or can I unplug it so it doesn’t report to the eld administrator?

    1. I wouldn’t suggest tampering with it. DOT will simply apply the rule and if your not subject to using an ELD then you’re not subject.

  6. I drive a small fuel truck for the railroad,I don’t drive it everyday about twice a week to job site and sometimes back with the most miles I have traveled has been 72 miles one way and we work 4 10 a week. My question is do I use paper logs or a eld because the truck has a eld,and I only been driving the fuel truck sometime in August.

  7. Q: My company uses JJ Keller. Can i use “Big Road” app instead of paper log when JJ Keller fails?

  8. I only work 8 days out of the month am i still required to use eld even witb this new mandate for 2020?

    1. yes – once you’re required to use a logbook 8 or more times in a rolling 30 period, you must use an ELD.

    1. It sounds as if you’re an intrastate driver (which means you never leave the state) so it may depend on California’s rules. For FMCSA rules, you must use an ELD if you required a log 8 or more times in a rolling 30 period.

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for stopping by. Once your required to use an ELD, whether or not you have a trailer makes no difference.

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