On June 12, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents independent truck drivers and small trucking companies, to overturn a lower court ruling upholding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) rule.
FMCSA is requiring companies operating commercial trucks across state lines to improve compliance with hours of service (HOS) rules—which limits the number of hours drivers can operate a vehicle—by equipping vehicles with ELDs. Given the complex nature of the rule, lumber dealers must know their responsibility ahead of the implementation date later this year.
Companies required to maintain records of duty status paperwork for drivers must equip their trucks with an ELD by Dec. 18, 2017. The device is used to electronically record a driver’s record of duty status and replaces the paper logs used by some drivers for HOS compliance. Trucks equipped with older technology approved to maintain records of duty status have until Dec. 16, 2019, to upgrade or purchase new technology to meet the new requirements.
The short haul exemption from HOS requirements remains in effect. Drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) operating a commercial motor vehicle within a 100- mile air radius of their normal reporting location are exempt. In addition, drivers without a CDL operating a commercial motor vehicle within a 150-mile air radius of their normal reporting location are exempt. A commercial motor vehicle is broadly defined as one that weighs over 10,000 pounds, or has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
Dealers who have a salesperson that periodically drives a commercial truck may also be exempt from the ELD requirement. A driver-salesperson whose total driving does not exceed 40 hours in any period of seven consecutive days is exempt, as is a driver transporting construction materials to or from an active construction site within 50 air miles of the normal reporting location. Even with exemptions, the employer must keep time sheets that show a driver’s start and end times.
In April, NLBMDA submitted comments to FMCSA in support of an exemption from the ELD requirement for short-term truck rentals. The Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRLA) is requesting a five-year enforcement exemption from the ELD requirement for drivers operating short-term truck rentals. If approved by FMCSA, all drivers of property-carrying vehicles rented for 30 days or fewer would be exempt from the ELD rule but still subject to the standard HOS limits and need to maintain a paper record of duty status.
Interoperability of ELDs is a concern with short-term truck rentals. Companies required to meet ELD requirements may not be able to use their device in a short-term rental. That includes the ability of one system to transfer a driver’s record of duty status for the current 24-hour period and the prior seven days. It is also not clear whether short-term rental companies will provide dedicated units in their vehicles or rely on customers to furnish an ELD.
Short-term truck rentals are a flexible and cost effective option for companies, such as lumber dealers, to meet operational needs without the substantial costs associated with owning and maintaining commercial motor vehicles. A decision by FMCSA on the short-term truck rental exemption is expected this summer.
FMCSA is required under federal transportation laws to issue a new ELD rule. Despite the challenges in implementing the rule, the agency has moved forward while considering exemptions to the requirement. FMCSA has worked to alleviate concerns related to driver harassment by providing drivers a process to file written complaints, limiting the ability to for employers to edit ELD records and preserving original ELD records even when edited.
Drivers operating a truck equipped with an ELD are not required to maintain a paper log; however, they are required to maintain supporting documentation. In addition, all drivers must produce either the display or a printout of a standardized ELD data set when a law enforcement or safety official requests a physical display of the information.
Compliance with transportation regulations has become a growing concern for lumber dealers in recent years. As part its current strategic plan, NLBMDA has developed a Transportation and Fleet Safety Toolkit to help companies better understand and comply with various regulations applicable to commercial motor vehicles. NLBMDA’s Regulatory Counsel Frank Moore regularly updates the toolkit as changes are made to federal transportation regulations.
Companies should evaluate their fleet and transportation operations in determining compliance requirements under the ELD rule. State Departments of Transportation are also a good resource in better understanding commercial vehicle requirements. Dealers that still have questions regarding transportation compliance are encouraged to contact NLBMDA.