A 2014 study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revealed that the implementation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) could potentially prevent approximately 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 fatalities annually. In 2016, there were 4,400 fatal accidents involving large buses and trucks, highlighting the alarming frequency of casualties resulting from motor accidents. To address this issue, the FMCSA introduced the ELD Mandate, requiring digital tracking of a driver's Hours of Service (HOS).
An ELD, or Electronic Logging Device, monitors a truck's engine and records its hours of operation. The FMCSA has mandated the use of ELD devices in almost all commercial vehicles that cross state lines to accurately calculate HOS. ELDs replace the manual paper logs that drivers used to maintain, saving them time and effort. While some argue that ELDs have limitations and impose rigid requirements, they are legally required for most long-haul truck drivers. In this article, we will discuss the exemptions to this mandate. But first, let's clarify what HOS entails.
In 1938, the Federal Government began regulating commercial vehicles, introducing the Hours of Service (HOS) rule. This rule aimed to prevent trucking companies from overexploiting drivers and to ensure drivers didn't operate vehicles while fatigued. Fatigued driving is a leading cause of road accidents. In 2015, approximately 5,000 people died in accidents related to drowsy driving, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that each year, there are about 100,000 drowsy driving-related crashes in the United States. The economic impact of these accidents, including deaths and injuries, is estimated at around $109 billion annually, excluding property damage.
To enforce HOS compliance, the government has been stringent with both drivers and fleet owners. For example, the case of C & J Trucking Company in Londonderry, New Hampshire, involved a deadly crash in 1995 due to HOS violations. The company's owners allowed drivers to exceed HOS limits and paid them “illegal hours” off the books, leading to their sentencing to federal prison in 1999.
HOS Rules Overview:
A commercial vehicle driver can drive for up to 8 hours consecutively.
After 8 hours of driving, a mandatory 30-minute break is required.
The total hours driven in a 14-hour workday cannot exceed 11 hours.
After a 14-hour shift, drivers must have a minimum of 10 hours off-duty.
Drivers cannot work more than 60 hours in a 7-day workweek.
Additional HOS rules may apply depending on the state.
The FMCSA requires most commercial drivers to use an ELD device unless they fall under specific exemption categories, which we will discuss below. If a driver's duty takes them outside the United States, they can annotate their duty records to indicate time spent working outside the country using the ELD device. This ELD mandate also applies to commercial trucks and buses, including domiciled drivers from Canada and Mexico.
A domiciled driver is someone who maintains permanent residence in a particular area or locality, with the intent to return after any period of absence. Each person can have only one domicile at a time. Thus, a domiciled driver of Canada or Mexico refers to someone who is a permanent registered resident of Canada or Mexico.
Exemptions to the ELD Mandate:
Trucks Manufactured Before 2000:
Trucks manufactured in 1999 or earlier are exempt from the ELD mandate since they typically lack the Engine Control Module (ECM) necessary for ELD functionality. However, it's important to note that engine replacements can occur, regardless of the truck's model year, which may still require an ELD device.
Drivers with RODS of 8 Days or Less:
Drivers who maintain Records of Duty Status (RODS) for 8 days or less within a 30-day period are exempt from the ELD mandate. While ELD devices are not legally required for these drivers, they must still maintain paper logs.
When an empty or unladen truck, tractor, or trailer is being transported with at least one set of wheels on the road, and the vehicle itself is part of the cargo or shipment, an ELD device is not required. Additionally, ELDs are not required for the transport of motorhomes or recreational vehicle trailers.
Short-haul drivers who meet specific criteria are exempt from the ELD mandate. These exemptions include:
100 air-mile radius: Commercial drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile radius of their reporting location, return to the same location daily, have a 12-hour working shift, and do not exceed 11 hours of driving in a day.
150 air-mile radius: Non-commercial drivers operating vehicles under 8,000 pounds within a 150 air-mile radius of their reporting location, returning after each duty tour, and not requiring a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).
Some exemptions are related to agricultural vehicles. Drivers transporting agricultural commodities within a 150 air-mile radius are exempt from HOS requirements and are not required to maintain paper logs. If a vehicle already has an ELD device, the driver can use an “Exempt Driver” setting or annotate the time as “exempt ag operation.”
Additional Limited Exemptions:
The FMCSA has approved three limited exemptions extending the deadline for ELD device implementation:
A. Trucks Rented for 8 Days or Less:
This exemption is valid until October 11, 2022. Vehicles rented for 8 days or less, regardless of use, are exempt from ELD requirements. HOS rules still apply, and paper logs are necessary. Drivers must keep a copy of the rental agreement.
B. UPS Partial Exemption:
The United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) has received an exemption valid for five years until October 20, 2022. UPS drivers are allowed to change their duty status on the ELD device even when not in their vehicles. Additionally, UPS can provide a special yard move option for drivers on their premises.
C. Motion Picture Association Truck Drivers:
This exemption is in effect until January 19, 2023, and applies to commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers transporting goods to and from television or theatrical motion picture sites. These drivers can maintain paper records of duty status instead of using an ELD device due to the complex nature of their HOS requirements.
In summary, ELD mandate exemptions include trucks manufactured before 2000, drivers with RODS of 8 days or less, driveaway-towaway operations, local drivers meeting specific criteria, and certain agricultural exemptions. Keep in mind that even if your truck qualifies for an exemption, it may still be beneficial to use an ELD device to future-proof against rule changes. Additionally, some states have their own ELD requirements, such as Texas and Florida.
Please note that the information provided in this article is for general informational purposes and not intended as legal advice. Always consult the relevant regulations and authorities for the most up-to-date information on ELD mandates and exemptions.