How to Fill Out a Logbook for CDL Drivers – [Updated 2023]

CDL Driver

As designated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), any truck driver who operates a commercial vehicle for work must fill out log books during their shifts. These driver reports are usually completed through the use of electronic logging devices. However, there are still times when truck drivers will need to provide paper logs instead.

For instance, if the software fails to update or undergoes a malfunction that keeps it from submitting your records, you will be in a much better position if you have a physical backup log you can submit instead. If you’ve only used the electronic version of a log book before and are wondering, “How do you fill out a trucking paper log?” then this guide is for you.

We’ll review how to fill out a DOT log book, what information to include in your record, and how to submit your completed driving log. We’ll also cover the most common mistakes made by truck drivers when filling out their daily logs.  This information is a great complement to our video-based hours of service training.

Why is It Important to Know How to Complete Driving a Log Sheet?

The primary function of a drivers’ log book is to protect commercial drivers from being overworked by their companies.

Fleet operators monitor the hours driven to ensure they don’t exceed federal regulations as laid out by the FMCSA and the  Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

Driving for too many hours at a time can have serious health consequences, increasing the risk of driver error and falling asleep at the wheel. Studies have shown that driving fatigue decreases alertness and makes costly mistakes more likely, so regulating the number of hours spent driving is an important way to prioritize the safety of everyone on the road.

Under FMCSA regulations, truck drivers are responsible for preparing their driving logs by hand if their electronic logging devices should malfunction.

This provision is known as the Electronic Loggin Device or ELD mandate, and it exists to ensure that hours of service regulations are adhered to even if the ELD logs can’t be accessed.

Therefore, it is a good idea to purchase paper logs to have on hand just in case the electronic system fails while you’re on the road, especially if you won’t be able to get it repaired promptly.

Choose an official DOT log book to guarantee all of the sections you need will be present.

Truck Driver Outside of Truck

How Do I Use a Driver’s Daily Log Book?

A standard driving log should have clearly delineated sections dedicated to each relevant category of information that needs to be recorded.

For instance, any duty status changes will be marked on the logbook grid with a continuous line. It may take practice using a paper DOT log book if you’ve only ever used electronic logs.

Your log books should include records of both your on-duty and off-duty hours. Other relevant information includes your name, trucking company, dates, addresses, state, license plate number, driving hours, and hours sleeping.

You should also record the names of any co-drivers on your driving team, along with your home terminal address and, if applicable, your trailer number.

Your start and end odometer readings will also be recorded on the log sheet. These numbers are automatically included in the reports sent by ELD logs, but you’ll need to record them by hand when filling out a paper sheet.

Trucks Changing Lanes

How to Complete a Truck Driver Log Book

We’ll answer the question “How do you do a logbook?” by going into detail about each section your log books should have, what to write in each of those sections, and how to complete and submit your daily logs.

1. Preparing Your Daily Driving Logs

Before starting your driving shift, you’ll need to check in with your company about their specific rules and requirements for completing a log sheet.

Under the ELD mandate, every commercial vehicle must have electronic logging devices installed; however, your company should still have provisions for filling out pen-and-paper log books in case the electronic one fails.

Make sure you understand how to operate your electronic log’s software and how to update the device.

Remember that different trucking operations may use technology from different companies, so not every ELD you encounter will be the same.

If you have to fill out a paper log sheet, you may be able to use some information from the ELD, including the total miles traveled and the number of hours driven.

2. Record Basic Information

The top of the log book is where you’ll record standard information such as your name, home address, and date. You’ll also need the main office address and home terminal address, which will often be one and the same.

Ensure you include your employee ID number in this section to make it easier for companies to know who you are.

If you have a co-driver, write their name in this section as well. However, the driver’s name responsible for filling out the log book should be made clear.

3. Add Truck Number and Miles Completed

The next section should include information about your vehicle, including your truck or trailer number and the total miles driven.

If you have a shipping document number, be sure to record that in this section as well.

4. Fill Out Duty Status Changes

This section often provides the most confusion for drivers who aren’t used to filling out their log books by hand.

Your log sheet should have four sections that each have 24 boxes. Every box represents one hour.

These four sections are split into categories as follows: on-duty hours, off-duty hours, driving time, and sleeping hours.

To record the time you spent for each specific duty status, draw a horizontal line across the middle of the corresponding row of boxes.

For example, if you were on duty between 9 am and 2 pm, mark your line through the boxes from 9 am to 2 pm across from the section marked “On Duty.”

OFF-DUTY Time Spent

Your off-duty hours include any time you weren’t driving, sleeping, or actively on duty during your recording period.  You can also refer to our article on personal conveyance rules for additional information.

ON-DUTY Time Spent

This section covers the amount of time you spent on duty but not actively driving.

An example might be operating the radio while your co-driver takes a driving shift. Another example could be performing regular maintenance or inspecting the freight in the back of the truck.

Driving Hours

The hours you spend driving should be recorded in this section.

To avoid endangering others and receiving a hefty fine, make sure you do not exceed the maximum number of driving hours as regulated by the FMCSA. Also, you do need to understand some of the more confusing rules, like the 70-hour 8-day rule, and we have written a guide for that.

Sleeping Time

The breaks you take to sleep and recover your energy should be documented in this section using a horizontal line through the corresponding hours.

CDL Driver

5. Maintain a Continuous Line

As your shift goes on, maintain one long line rather than breaking it up into multiple horizontal lines. Every duty status change should be demonstrated with a vertical line rather than chopping up your original line.

As an example, let’s say you drove from 7 am until 11 am and then took a rest from 11 am until 1 pm. You would mark a straight line horizontally through the 7 am to 11 am boxes in the “driving” section.

Next, instead of starting a new line in the “sleeping” section, simply draw a vertical line from 11 am down to the “sleeping” section.

Then, continue with your horizontal line across to 1 pm to show the time you spent resting.

It can be difficult to remember to draw those vertical lines instead of jumping to a new section. Drivers often make mistakes when learning to fill out this part of a DOT log book. You can try practicing the unbroken line on graph paper to get the hang of it.

6. Tally Up Total Hours

Once you’ve completed all of your horizontal and vertical lines, it’s time to tally up the total number of hours for all four sections. Write as neatly as possible, and round the total to the nearest 15 minutes.

This step often helps drivers catch any errors made while recording their duty status. If you don’t reach 24 hours on your log book, you must have made a mistake. Go back and check your off-duty hours and other status recordings, and make sure you didn’t miss anything.

7. Include Departure and Arrival Cities

Traveling between different cities is a major component of life on the road for a commercial truck driver. Spending your off-duty hours exploring a new place is one of the many appeals of the lifestyle for many drivers.

Each time you arrive in a new city, record the name of that city and the state on your log sheet.

You can abbreviate the state if you like, but you should always spell out the entire name of the city to avoid confusion.

If you start your shift in one city and end in another, you’ll need to record the names of both locations in your log book, along with the arrival and departure dates for each city.

This information can go at the bottom of the log sheet if you don’t see a specifically labeled place for it.

Truck Driver Steering Wheel

8. Complete the Remarks Section

Not all log books have a section dedicated to remarks. Even if yours does, you won’t always need to fill it out.

That said, this section can provide useful information to your company, such as an explanation for why a certain route might have taken longer than expected to complete.

If hazardous weather conditions prevented you from getting to your destination at the expected time, you can record that information in the remarks section.

Additionally, if something noteworthy occurs during your off-duty hours, this is the place to write it down.

For instance, if vandals spray paint your truck while you are out getting a meal, you can make a note of the damage and the time it likely occurred in this part of the logbook.

This section is also an appropriate place to record any accidents or breakdowns that occur during your shift. Include this along with the names of the mechanics or companies who helped you, if relevant.

Remember, your DOT log book is considered a legal document, so make sure to write very legibly at all times and stick to the facts exactly as they occurred.

If you don’t have any relevant information to include in the remarks section, draw a line through it rather than leaving it blank.

9. Sign Your Truck Driver Log Book

All log books must be authenticated with the driver’s signature before being submitted.

Look for a line near the bottom of the log sheet that says “driver’s full signature,” and use a pen to sign your name in cursive.

If you are part of a driving team, make sure all of the drivers sign their names.

10. Submit Your Log Sheets

While ELDs can be sent through USB, Bluetooth, or wireless web services to the relevant authorities, paper log books must be turned in by hand.

Typically, you’ll need to visit your scheduling manager in person to hand over your driving log, usually back at your home terminal.

Some companies make use of drop boxes where their drivers can drop off their logs at any time.

Diesel Truck Powering Down the Road

11. Make Driving Log Corrections Promptly

It’s not uncommon for employers to send backlog books that need to be corrected, particularly if the driver isn’t used to filling out a log by hand.

One of the most frequently occurring reasons why a log sheet might be sent back for corrections is if the driver’s handwriting is illegible. This is particularly relevant if you’ve filled out the remarks section and your employer can’t figure out what you’re saying.

Missing or obviously incorrect information may also lead to getting your driving log sent back. If your shipping document number is absent, or if you’ve taken an incorrect odometer reading, your employer may ask you to fix the mistake.

Forgetting to sign is another common mistake drivers make when submitting their log books. Without a signature, the log sheet cannot be considered a valid legal document.

Failure to record other relevant information, such as the address of your home terminal will also need to be corrected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to additional questions you may have about the purpose of driver logs, as well as the rules of filling out log books by hand.

What Are the Basic Rules of Log Book?

In order to successfully complete a driving log book by hand, you should get into the habit of making your notes every day. Start your morning by filling out the relevant information in your log, and make another entry each time you go off-duty.

Another basic rule is always to make sure you write legibly. Many people don’t get much of a chance to practice their handwriting these days, but your employer needs to be able to read your notes in order to understand how the shift went and whether any problems came up that need to be addressed going forward.

Never forget to include your home terminal when completing your logbook. The distance you’re traveling from your home base is an important aspect of determining whether you will be required to complete a log book in the first place. If you’re venturing more than a hundred miles away from your home base, you will need to complete a log sheet.

Can My Log Book Help with Compensation?

In the event of a crash, your driver log could be an immensely important piece of evidence for insurance companies to look at. This evidence can help you receive compensation from your company if you are injured.

How Do You Fill Out a Logbook for a Team Driver?

The rules for co-drivers filling out a log book together are the same. Every driver should fill out their own duty status section, and everyone on the team should add their signature in cursive at the bottom of the document.

Truck Driving on Highway

What Are the Rules of HOS?

The FMCSA mandates that commercial drivers may not drive longer than 11 hours in a single day, and cannot be on duty for more than 14 hours in one day.

Additionally, once drivers have driven 8 hours in a row, they must take at least a 30-minute break from driving before continuing.

In order to lower the chances of driver fatigue and reckless driving, commercial drivers must not exceed 60 driving hours in a 7-day period.

Keep in mind that while some companies may put pressure on their drivers to exceed these limits, the FMCSA considers the person whose name is on the logs to be responsible for any deviations from the law.

Breaking these laws can lead to extremely high fines and penalties, including loss of driving privileges.

Understand the Importance of Paper Logs for Truck Drivers

With ELDs mandated for every truck as of 2019, commercial drivers aren’t always trained on how to fill out logs by hand these days.

However, systems can malfunction, leaving drivers without a detailed record of their shifts. This can lead to confusion down the road, particularly if an accident occurs and you need to prove you didn’t exceed the maximum driving time as mandated by the FMCSA.

Keeping a paper record to back up your ELD ensures you will always have the information you need to submit to your employer and to the relevant authorities.  For a CDL driver, knowing how to fill out a logbook is information you need to know.