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Keys to Good Record-Keeping

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Now that you all are aware that there is no standard way in which road expenses are handled in the industry, we can get on with showing you two different ways of keeping track of your expenses. The method you or your company chooses for how you keep track of expenses will probably be a slight variation of one of these two systems. If you plan to be an owner-operator and have to develop your own record-keeping system, you can model it after one of the two systems we're about to show you.

Whatever system it is, it should be just as thorough, just as easy to interpret as these two systems are. Here are some principles to keep in mind:
  1. Ask for receipts for everything - including small things like tolls, scales and coffee breaks. If your company won't reimburse you for them, you can usually declare them as business expenses on your own income tax forms.

  2. Keep all receipts - all of them.

  3. Store your receipts where you can find them. For example, put them in envelopes. Use one envelope per trip, per week, or per month depending upon which method seems best for your operation. Or, instead of putting them in envelopes, staple them to the expense report onto which you recorded them.

  4. Record all expenses on an expense report. Use the totals columns to tally up your expenses. The totals columns also help you catch mistakes.

  5. Check to see that you recorded everything correctly and that you have all receipts. First add up all your receipts. Write the total down someplace. Then total up all the items on your expense report. Check that total against the total of your receipts. If the two don't match, you made a mistake somewhere. Either you didn't record some receipts or you lost some receipts. If you lost a receipt, look around for it. Maybe it just fell onto the floor of your rig or into your litter bag. If you look now, you might just find it. If you wait until you're about to hand in your expense report or figure your income taxes, you'll probably be out of luck.

  6. Turn in your expense report on time. If you're supposed to mail it in daily, be sure to do so.

Some forms are easier to use than others. But if you follow the principles above, you'll do a good job of accounting, no matter how your expense report form is designed. Now let's get on with learning how to keep and record receipts under two different systems.

System #1 - Driver Pays Everything

(Completing the Trip Expense Report Form)

Once again, you need to keep very careful records of all expenses. You need to keep all receipts and record them carefully on an expense report. The one we'll be using first in this exercise is the Trip Expense Report which appears in Part IV of this workbook. We are teaching you to use it when you are required to pay all your own expenses. And, we are suggesting that you fill out one of these reports for each trip. However, this form would be just as useful if the company paid most or all expenses. And, it could be easily adapted for use as a weekly expense report. Tear one out now and look at it. Two items are omitted from this form. Those two items are fuel and oil purchases. They have been omitted because you need more detailed records of these items. Therefore, whenever you use the Trip Expense Report, you must remember to record fuel and oil purchases on another form.

This is a well-designed trip expense report because it has room on it for just about anything that can come up on the road. If something isn't specifically listed on the form, you can put it under one of the miscellaneous (catch all) columns. It's 8-1/2 by 11 inches in size, so it will clip easily onto a clipboard and you can store the clipboard in the pocket on the driver's door of the cab. You can carry a stapler and staple all the receipts to the report as soon as you get them, or you can keep them in a separate envelope which you also keep in your door pocket or wherever you store important papers in the cab.

Totals Blocks

The Column Totals and final Totals are very important. It is here where you see how much you spent per trip (or per week) for all your road expenses. And it is these columns which you use to verify the accuracy of your recordkeeping.

The Column Totals are self-explanatory. To total each column, you add up all items in the column and record the total at the bottom. The only modification to this routine is that all meals and coffee breaks are listed together in one large block.

The final Totals are simply combinations of all items in a large block - one for personal expenses, one for truck expenses and one for miscellaneous hauling expenses.

When you've filled in all three of the final Totals, add up those three amounts and record the Grand Total in the Grand Total box. Then, compare that grand total to the grand total of all your receipts. If the amount is the same, you recorded everything accurately. If the grand totals are different, look for your error. It'll save you time, headaches, and possibly money later on
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