Even before the ELD mandate came down the pike, Lindenmeyr Munroe, an independent paper and packaging distributor in the U.S., was constantly on the hunt for ways to improve its fleet operations and to track driving behaviors for better fuel efficiency.
According to Matthew Mascia, corporate transportation and logistics director at Lindenmeyr Munroe, when the company began digging into the operations across its 18 facilities, management found that fuel tax reporting and driver shift sheets were the biggest challenges to manage. And that deeper dive into the company’s operations also shed light on unintentional undocumented violations for driver records of duty.
“When the mandate came around, it kind of created the perfect storm for us to really sit down and talk about what we were going to do for our operating fleet,” Mascia explained during a webinar sponsored by Omnitracs that focused specifically on ELDs and the short-haul exemption.
The company has 160 trucks operating on the road today—some of which fall completely into the short-haul exemption while others do not.
During the same webinar, Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), explained carriers that fall under the short-haul exemption operate within a 100 air-mile radius.
Interestingly, however, ‘air-miles’ actually refer to ‘nautical miles,’ so 100 air-miles actually translate into about 115 road miles.
“Essentially what we do with this short-haul exemption is we say if you’re leaving from the same place and you return to your normal work reporting locations, operating within that 100 air-mile radius, you’re not going to have to fill out a logbook,” DeLorenzo emphasized
There are additional qualifications to meet that exemption, i.e., state drivers can’t exceed 12 hours a day, and they can’t exceed the normal 11 hours of driving in that 12-hour day. Under those guidelines, it also means that there’s not necessarily any requirement for any documentation to be onboard the vehicle.
A similar exemption, the 150 air-mile radius is basically the same as the 100 air-mile exemption except that it won’t apply to most traditional trucking companies as only non-CDL drivers are eligible.
“My advice to anybody that operates under these exemptions is to make sure that your drivers understand the exemption and are able to articulate that in the event they’re stopped, so that it’s clear why they don’t have a logbook,” DeLorenzo explained. “It’s also important that at the carrier’s place of business, documentation of that driver’s time is maintained.”
DeLorenzo also noted there are two agricultural exemptions for the ELD mandate:
- Agricultural (or ag) exemption–Not only do companies transporting agricultural commodity within 150 air-miles have to fill out a record of duty status, but those hours don’t count toward their daily and weekly limit. For-hire carriers or anyone transporting livestock can take advantage of this exemption.
- Covered farm vehicles exemption—This is more of an exemption for the farmer or family members of the farm. It works very similar to the ag exemption. According to FMCSA, the key is that if it’s a farm vehicle registered in the state and it’s not a for-hire operation, it’s eligible for this exemption.
“My practical rule of thumb on this particular issue is if you’re not required to fill out a logbook today, then you don’t need to have an ELD,” DeLorenzo said. “It really is as simple as that.”
In addition, vehicles manufactured before 2000 are exempt from the ELD mandate. To clarify, pre-2000 refers to the engine model year, not the vehicle model year. So, if a 2000 model-year vehicle has a 1999 engine, there is no need to comply with the ELD rule.
“When we wrote the ELD rule, we realized that when you’re trying to make a connection with the onboarding computer, there is a big difference when you’re trying to look at the age of the vehicle,” DeLorenzo noted. “Particularly what we looked at was the cost, and the technical needs for connecting to an onboard computer for pre-2000 vehicles just did not make it worthwhile for the rule.”
The second question that comes up regarding the pre-2000 exemption is, what if a carrier or owner-operator adds a glider kit and maintains a pre-2000 engine?
“Just because you change the chassis and the body, the engine is what really matters in this case,” DeLorenzo explained. “You need to focus on an engine model year that is pre-2000 that does not require an ELD. I like to point out that if you do an engine swap or put on a glider kit, there is a separate regulation requiring documentation [that needs to be maintained] at your place of business.”
According to DeLorenzo, the most common exemption is going to be the eight in 30 rule, which looks at a rolling 30-day period similar to the rolling eight-day period drivers keep on their logs. Drivers who are not required to fill out a record of duty status more than eight days during any rolling 30-day period will not have to have an ELD.
In addition, a company that generally operates under the 100 air-mile radius exemption but on occasion exceeds that radius could operate under this exemption.
“As long as that doesn’t happen more than eight days out of every 30, you can maintain your hours of service on a paper log,” DeLorenzo added. “You want to make sure drivers could articulate that. What you don’t want to do with these exemptions is figure out on day eight or day nine of those 30 days that you needed to have a record of duty status and therefore have an ELD.
“It goes by driver. So as a company, if you’re going to manage with this exemption, you need to make sure each driver stays within those eight days out of every 30. Then you’ll be okay.”
Perman Rejepov, distribution metrics specialist at Preferred Meals, explained during the webinar that his company’s fleet comprises a mixture of CDL, non-CDL, and long-haul and short-haul operations. Although the entire fleet is not bound by the upcoming rule, Rejepov said the company felt ELDs made sense across its entire operations.
He urged fleets to be vigilant when adopting new devices, since many companies say they are ELD compliant when they are not. Rejepov added that before companies begin investing money in ELDs, they should understand the differences between short-haul versus long-haul and the criteria for both.
“Most of our short hauls do not qualify as a short-haul based on the criteria for the ELD mandate,” he explained. “We have a route structure that is continually changing.”
According to Rejepov, Preferred Meals found the ELD mandate makes sense for short-haul fleets in general, with potential benefits that include:
- Compliance when tracking air-miles and hours of service;
- Automated IFTA tax reporting calculation;
- Reduced liabilities;
- Paperless recordkeeping and reporting; and
- Unassigned vehicle activity traceability.
The company found some challenges along the way, including driver resistance when learning how to use the devices, and educating drivers on the meaning of hours of service and the differences between short-haul and long-haul operations. In addition, Rejepov said the company found it challenging to teach its managers how to properly operate under the hours-of-service regulations for short-haul carriers.
Similarly, Lindenmeyr Munroe implemented ELDs across its entire fleet in an effort not to handicap itself and to ensure its operations were compliant, Mascia noted.
“Being a sales-driven organization, we’re going to make our deliveries where our customers need us to,” Mascia explained. “If we didn’t have that ability or an unavailable driver, that would be unacceptable from a delivery perspective.
“For us, preparation has been key, but we are really in the infancy stages of adoption right now,” he added. “The preparation side of things for us really began when we made the decision. Our partnership with Omnitracs really [helped when] looking for the right mobile device. For us, mobile became the right solution. We were already kind of used to it, and it makes it a lot easier for us when we’re managing subunits and rentals.”
Mascia said the company hopes the devices will help “save nickels” and put financial benefits back into its bottom line over time.
Partial Waiver for Truck Rentals
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is providing a partial waiver of sorts from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for short-term truck rentals. Based on a draft of a Federal Register notice formally published recently, the agency said this “limited exemption” provides that all drivers of “property-carrying” commercial motor vehicles rented for eight days or less, regardless of reason, are not required to use an ELD.
While operating under this rental-truck exemption, drivers remain subject to the standard hours-of-service limits, must maintain a paper record of duty status if required, and maintain a copy of the rental agreement on the vehicle. However, the agency stressed that drivers of rental vehicles operating longer than eight days will be required to comply with the ELD mandate.
This exemption is the result of a petition filed by the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) back on November 1, 2016, requesting relief for trucks rented 30 days or less for a period of five years.
The group claimed that the ELD mandate would require that every truck in a company’s rental fleet be retrofitted and equipped with an ELD to ensure compliance, whether or not the rental customer needed to use an ELD, such as in short-haul vocations.
While TRALA said it “regrets” that its petition to allow trucks rented for 30 days or less be exempted from the ELD mandate was not accepted fully, having the ability to operate rental trucks for eight days without requiring an ELD will help “alleviate some problems,” especially in light of the “technical reality” that ELDs are not interoperable across multiple telematics platforms. —S.K.
ELDs don’t change HOS rules or enforcement
During a panel discussion at the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) 2017 Management Conference & Exhibition in late October, FMCSA’s Joe DeLorenzo stressed that the “reason at the root of why we’re doing this” in terms of mandating ELDs is to improve compliance with hours of service (HOS) regulations—and that neither the HOS rules nor enforcement of them will change come December 18. “The biggest thing to remember is that it is really still about HOS enforcement. All we’re really doing is moving from paper logs to electronic records,” he said.
To that end, though, Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, emphasized that HOS enforcement “does not change” and that inspectors will document “all ELD and HOS violations” starting December 18. They just won’t be placing trucks out of service for ELD violations until April 1 of next year, he stressed.
Mooney added that the three and a half months between December 18 and April 1 won’t be a “soft enforcement” period either; warnings and citations for ELD violations during roadside inspections will be issued.