FMCSA Denies ELD Exemption for small Carriers

A group representing trucking and other companies with 50 employees or less has been denied an ELD exemption from the FMCSA and their federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

The exemption, filed by the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), received nearly 2,000 comments after it was posted in June 2018, with the vast majority – roughly 95 percent – in favor of the exemption.

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asserted that SBTC’s application failed to provide evidence that safety would not be compromised under the exemption.

SBTC, which claims to have a membership of over 12,000 individuals and groups, did not “explain how you would ensure that you could achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulation,” according to the FMCSA’s decision, which was posted on July 17.

SBTC also did not meet the statutory requirement to describe “the specific countermeasures the person would undertake to ensure an equivalent or greater level of safety than would be achieved absent the requested exemption,” FMCSA stated. “SBTC proposed no countermeasures at all.”

In its application, SBTC asserted that ELDs, which were required to be installed and in use starting on April 1, 2018, are tools used to determine compliance with existing hours-of-service regulations, and that the ELD mandate itself is not a safety regulation per se.

“Therefore, it is our position that this rule does not itself impact safety, and that the level of safety will not change based on whether or not our exemption application is approved. That would require a change to the [hours-of-service rules],” SBTC contended. The exemption would have allowed motor carriers with fewer than 50 employees to maintain their current practices that have resulted in a proven safety record.

Because smaller trucking companies would continue to track their hours of service through paper logs, and that this method has been sufficient since the 1930s, SBTC argued, “we believe the level of safety is already assured by the pre-existing Hours of Service rule as opposed to this ELD enforcement mechanism rule.”

Officials from the Washington, D.C.-based coalition were not available to comment.

A similar ELD exemption request filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was denied by FMCSA in July 2018. OOIDA’s request was for five years and would have covered small businesses as defined by the Small Business Administration, which are those having average annual revenue of $27.5 million or less.

Most of the support for SBTC’s application came from smaller independent operators, while safety groups and those representing larger trucking companies generally opposed the request.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), for example, disagreed with SBTC’s assertion that the ELD mandate did not itself constitute a safety regulation, because granting an exemption would allow fleets with 50 or fewer employees to use paper logs to record their on-duty time.

“This would allow for the potential of falsification of records of duty status (RODS) while leaving no controls in place for enforcement,” ATA argued in its comments. “The technical specifications and requirements of ELDs ensure the accuracy of a drivers’ RODS, and reduce the likelihood that a driver is operating beyond the federally established limits.”

Carriers using automatic onboarding recording devices (AOBRDs) were grandfathered in when the “soft” ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017, and were given until December 16, 2019, to comply. However, the latest weekly survey, released on July 15, found that 23 percent of fleets with one to five trucks have yet to make the switch.


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