All About ELD Exemptions: Are You Exempt From the ELD Rules?

May 12, 2020

The first time I mentioned the ELD rule to one of my coworkers years ago, they thought I was talking about light bulbs. "No," I explained, "those are LEDs." I should've known then that ELD rules would continue to be somewhat confusing.

In reality, if you find the ELD rules unclear, you aren't alone. The confusion surrounding the ELD rule comes from its constantly changing status. The new rules build on old rules. It seems like the ELD is always getting tweaked.

That's why today, we'll try to dispel some of the confusion surrounding the ELD rule. We'll dive into ELD exemptions. And most importantly, we'll provide links to the resources you'll need to stay on top of the ELD rule going forward.

There won't be any light bulbs, but let's illuminate the ELD rule.

What's an ELD?

An ELD is an electronic logging device that automatically tracks a commercial truck driver's hours of service. In addition, ELDs are “integrally synchronized” with a truck’s engine, which ensures the data collected is accurate.

The ELD Rule

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ELD rule mandates that certain commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must have an electronic log device that acts as an automatic record of duty status (RODS) platform in order to track their hours of service (HOS).

The ELD rule enforces and builds on the existing HOS rules. The ELD and HOS rules act as a guideline that dictate the maximum weekly hours a driver may drive. HOS rules attempt to minimize accidents that are related to drowsiness and driver fatigue.

Why did the FMCSA implement the ELD rule? According to the agency, "The ELD rule is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share RODS data. As part of the MAP-21 Act, Congress required adoption of the ELD rule."

The HOS Rule

Getting to know the ELD rule means understanding the HOS rule. What HOS must you follow? That depends on your truck and freight. Check HOS rules for your specific niche of trucking or freight on the FMCSA website. That said, the majority of CMV freight is subject to the following HOS rules:

  • 11-Hour Limit: May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • 14-Hour Limit: May not drive after the 14th consecutive hour since coming on duty, after 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: May not drive after either 60 or 70 hours on duty in seven or eight consecutive days, based on a rolling seven-day or eight-day period
  • Rest Breaks: May drive only if eight hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes

Keep in mind also that at times the HOS rules have exemptions. It doesn't mean ELD rules are exempted, but it's worth noting that certain situations arise where HOS rules are suspended. Let's look at those next.

HOS Exemptions

Emergency declarations can alter or suspend the HOS rules on certain types of freight in certain states. For example, haulers of livestock and fireworks are subject to relaxed HOS rules. (For fireworks, the relaxed rules are in a limited window between late June and early July.) In these instances, the safe handling of their specific commodity allows a driver extra leeway to get to their destination.

At other times, such as natural disasters, authorities have lifted HOS regulations on trucks hauling medicine, food, and other essential supplies. I recommend you stay up to date on the status of emergency HOS declarations here.

As noted, the goal is to better enforce driver safety. Accordingly, the FMCSA estimates in the ELD rule that proper compliance will result in 1,844 fewer crashes, 562 fewer injuries, and 26 lives saved each year. The goal is to protect property and save lives.

What ELDs Do

ELDs collect and transmit HOS data for a carrier in a way that allows a fleet manager or law enforcement officer to view a driver's e-logs in near real time. Many fleets already use ELDs to satisfy the requirement that drivers keep a record of duty status (RODS) for reasons that include:

  • ELDs eliminate the paper log book.
  • ELDs save a driver time by reducing the total amount of paperwork they must produce.
  • They keep dispatchers current on all their drivers' HOS status.
  • This knowledge allows fleet managers to improve their planning and route optimization.
  • Electronic HOS logs are easily produced and of higher quality.
  • ELDs protect compliant carriers and drivers in the event of an accident or traffic stop.

An ELD comes in many forms. It can be a dedicated hardware device or a piece of software that a driver runs on a smartphone or tablet. Both options have pros and cons and depend on the size and makeup of a particular fleet. Regardless of which ELD option a carrier uses, they're all required to sync to the engine of the truck. ELDs are also required to be fixed within arm's reach of the driver while the vehicle is in operation.

ELD Exemptions

Like many things in life, there are exceptions to the rule. When it comes to exemptions, the ELD Rule on the FMCSA website reads, "The following drivers are excepted in section 395.8(a)(1)(iii) from installing and using ELDs and may continue to use ‘‘paper’’ RODS:

  1. Drivers who use paper record of duty status (RODS) for not more than eight days during any 30-day period.
  2. Drivers who conduct driveaway-towaway operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.
  3. Vehicles with engines manufactured before model year 2000."

In addition to those exemptions, the government exempts ELD rules in certain other situations that involve short-haul drivers. The short-haul drivers are limited to either a 100- or 150 air-mile radius, Also, they must begin and end their day at the same location and work no more than 12 hours, along with other stipulations.

Also, certain farm vehicles are ELD exempt. The farm vehicle exemption applies to the private transport of livestock, machinery, or farm supplies driven by the farm’s owner, operator, family member, or employee. (There are also HOS exemptions pertaining to livestock.)

Note again that even when a truck and driver is ELD exempt, drivers must still keep a paper RODS log book.

Personal Conveyance, Also Known as Off-Duty Driving

When the ELD connects to the engine, it tracks all movement. That said, certain movements fall outside ELDs. For example, personal conveyance is a nuanced aspect of ELDs worth investigating. In essence, a driver is allowed by law to move his or her truck for several reasons while off duty. This is a win for common sense.

These movements fall outside the HOS trackable events, meaning they don't count against a driver's hours. These are the small movements that include adjusting the position of a truck for safety reasons, perhaps to find food or fuel, or even at the request of law enforcement. There's even no penalty if the truck is moved closer to the delivery location. If there's some gray area to the ELD rule, this is it. Indeed, some ELDs don't begin tracking movements until the truck reaches five miles an hour to allow for small movements.

That said, a driver also needs to be aware that carriers may have additional company rules beyond the personal conveyance rule. If the carrier rules are more strict, then those supersede the personal conveyance rule,

If you aren't exempt, you'll need an ELD solution. It's worth taking the time to make sure you don't already have existing software options that comply with the ELD rule. Cross-check the list of registered ELDs on the FMCSA website. The ELD apps available help limit the burden of cost for a carrier. But ELD violations range between $1,000 and $10,000 (averaging $2,867). When you consider the monetary cost, hit to your Safety Measurement System (SMS) score, and wasted time of getting a citation, ELD compliance will help keep you in the black.

ELD, Part of the Ideal Tech Stack

To summarize, ELD is a piece of technology that automatically records a driver’s driving time and other hours-of-service data. In other words, ELD allows easier, more accurate HOS record keeping. It's intended to reduce everyday hassles.

ELD is just one example of the overall trend of technological advancement within the trucking industry. Tech touches every aspect of trucking these days. Depending on your arm of logistics and trucking, the ideal tech stack will resemble something like this:

  1. ELD
  2. GPS (global positioning system)
  3. TMS (transportation management system)
  4. Driver workflow (including touchless deliveries)
  5. Mobile scanning for load documents
  6. Automated billing 
  7. DMS (document management software)

As the world economy moves forward, the trucking industry will continue leading the way. Tech is helping make everyone's job in trucking easier by reducing time wastage, streamlining workflow, and improving efficiency. ELDs are one piece of an ideal tech stack that helps trucking companies work smarter and harder.

That Said, Still Read the Exact ELD Rules

There are so many niches in trucking that it's hard to cover the minutiae of every type of truck and freight. It may be good insomnia reading (as in, it'll help you fall asleep), but it's beneficial to familiarize yourself with the actual ELD rule. You know your business better than anyone, and need to know what's required of you to maintain ELD compliance. Trucking is hard enough work already without delays and fines. Once again, a full copy of the ELD rules is available on the FMCSA website.

The government updates ELD rules from time to time. As such, it's a good idea to check the FMCSA newsroom regularly for the latest official updates. If you still have unanswered questions about the ELD rules, another resource is the FMCSA FAQ page, which allows you to search by topic in greater detail.

In short, the light switch is on when it comes to ELD exemptions and rules. Don't stay in the dark!

This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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