Payroll versus logs: What to do when the numbers don’t match

By: Tom Bray

Publication: Transport Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 07/25/2022

Sometimes supporting documents, such as payroll records, do not match the driver's log or time record. While this is something that will be investigated during an audit, and it is something a carrier should be investigating when it happens, it is not always a problem.

Pay does not equal on duty

The main reason this is not always a problem is that on-duty time is not tied to compensation (see Interpretation Question 10 to §395.2). It is the driver's activities that determine if the time must be recorded as on-duty or off-duty time, not whether the driver is being paid. If the driver is doing an activity covered by the definition of on-duty time found in §395.2, the driver is on duty. If the driver is not doing any of these activities, is relieved of all responsibilities, and is free to wander off and do other activities of their choosing, then the time can be considered off duty.

Pay can prove the driver was on duty

However, if payroll records can be used to prove a driver was on-duty, and the driver was logging off duty, then there will be an issue. An example of this is if the carrier paid the driver for unloading time, and the driver logged the unloading time as off-duty time.

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Be able to explain why

The key is having an acceptable reason for the discrepancy. As long as you can explain that the driver was legitimately off duty and why the driver was being paid while off duty, it is not a problem. Common situations are paying a driver for a layover or for spending a night away from home (some carriers do pay these things). In such cases, the carrier is paying the driver while the driver is off duty, which would need to be explained. Here is the discussion you should be able to have:

Question from the investigator: Payroll records show you paid the driver, but there is no on-duty time, why?

Answer: We were paying the driver for a layover (or for a night out, or for a paid off-duty lunch, etc.).

Punch in versus log in

There are other discrepancies that will need to be explained as well. One of the most common is a local driver who punches a time clock and uses an electronic logging device (ELD). At times, there may be a few minutes difference between the punch in time and the ELD log-in time. This normally isn't a big issue, unless the driver is logging in 5, 10, or 20 minutes later than the time clock shows. If there is a substantial difference, the driver should edit the ELD start time to match the time clock more closely.


Key to remember: Payroll records do not need to match the driver's log or time record exactly, provided you can provide a valid and acceptable reason for the difference.

About the author
Tom Bray - Transportation Editor

Tom has been with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. since 2005. He brought with him an extensive background that includes years of experience in DOT compliance, policy development, driver human resources, driver training, training program development, CDL testing, claims management, and accident and injury prevention.

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