Controlling Driver Log Falsification

In December 2019, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule took effect, requiring that most motor carriers use electronic devices that synchronize with the vehicle engine to track driver hours of service (HOS) instead of paper logbooks. The rule is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, making it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status data. 

The ELD regulations clearly state that all accounts must be assigned to an individual and that all driver accounts must have a driver’s license number linked to them. However, log falsification violations have been one of the most common driver-related violations since the rule took effect five years ago. 

Log falsification occurs when commercial drivers misrepresent their duty status or driving time on their daily duty records. Log falsification may be discovered during roadside inspections or Department of Transportation (DOT) audits of motor carriers. Whether intentional or unintentional, log falsification can be a significant issue for fleets.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 5% of all driver-related roadside inspections involved some kind of log falsification in the years from 2019 to 2023. Around 21,000 log falsification violations were uncovered in DOT audits, which represents about 6% of the audits conducted.

Log Falsification Impacts CSA Scores

ELD violations during a roadside inspection will affect a motor carrier’s CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) score. The more violations a motor carrier has, the more likely DOT will come calling. In addition, if a non-exempt driver doesn’t have an ELD when required, he or she will be placed out of service for at least 10 hours.

Log Falsification Affects a Motor Carrier’s Safety Rating

During a DOT audit, investigators look for critical-level infractions in one’s hours of service data to help determine whether the motor carrier’s safety rating is “Satisfactory,” “Conditional,” or “Unsatisfactory.”  DOT investigators are looking for infractions of the rules themselves—the 11-hour driving rule, the 14-hour daily rule, the 70-hour rule, and so on—as well as log falsifications. If they discover a log falsification violation rate of 10% or above in the DOT audit, the motor carrier will receive a critical-level violation in the hours-of-service component for that audit, which will result in nothing higher than a “Conditional” safety grade.

In addition to receiving a lower safety rating, a motor carrier could be fined, with amounts depending on the company size and number of infractions identified. Log falsification fines range from $5,000 to $50,000.

There is also the impact of litigation involving trucking accidents. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, five specific factors yielded 100% verdicts in favor of the plaintiff in an accident involving a motor carrier as a defendant. The top factor is hours-of-service or logbook violations.

Higher CSA scores also cause increases in Liability insurance rates with the distinct likelihood of not being able even to obtain quality insurance at all.

How to Prevent Log Falsification

  • Regularly examine driver logs for mistakes, discrepancies, and potential falsifications.
  • Use GPS tracking technologies to track drivers’ vehicles in real-time. By comparing GPS data to driver logs, motor carriers can ensure that claimed driving times and routes are accurate.
  • Train drivers on HOS requirements, emphasizing compliance and the repercussions of falsifying logs. 
  • Enforce rigorous policies to prevent log falsification. The policies should inform drivers that any attempt to modify or fabricate logs would result in disciplinary action, including termination if required. 
  • Encourage drivers to communicate any issues or concerns regarding HOS compliance.
  • Conduct random spot checks on driver logs to prevent falsification. Drivers are aware that they may be subject to checks at any time, which encourages adherence to regulation.
  • Use advanced data analysis technologies to detect patterns or anomalies in driving logs that could indicate falsification. 

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Source: North American Transportation Association