The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will take effect Dec. 18 as scheduled, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reiterated in a media briefing Monday afternoon, but there's an enforcement grace period as well as a new temporary exemption for agricultural haulers.
Acknowledging that many questions have come up regarding ELDs, "we are ready to go and move forward with implementation" of the mandate, said Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA's Office of Compliance and Enforcement. But the agency is looking to make the transition as smooth as possible, he added.
In that vein, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance announced several months ago that once the mandate is in force, commercial vehicles will not be placed out of service for not having an ELD (or device conforming to older automatic on-board recording device, AOBRD, standards) — at least not for a few months yet. It also won't count against the carrier's record.
For commercial drivers required to be keeping track of their hours of service (HOS) and record of duty status, enforcement officers will be looking to see that drivers have proper logs and are in compliance with HOS requirements. From Dec. 18, 2017 through April 1, 2018, drivers who aren't using an ELD but have paper logs in order will receive a citation but won't be placed out of service.
The carrier will know a violation happened, DeLorenzo noted, but that's about it — the violation won't count against the carrier's Safety Measurement System score maintained by the Dept. of Transportation.
"That's how we imagine the scenario going," he said. "Then starting April 1, 2018, we'll move into regular enforcement," he pointed out, so a commercial driver will be taken off the road for not using an ELD or a grandfathered-in AOBRD device, the latter of which provides a two-year extension to get an ELD by Dec. 2019.
In addition, DeLorenzo said FMCSA will issue guidance "in the next few weeks" about personal conveyance, which allows a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle for his or her personal use without it counting against available on-duty drive time.
Personal conveyance has caused a good deal of confusion among fleets and trucking companies as far as what's allowable and what, if any, limitations should be placed on it. Nothing has changed with the ELD mandate regarding personal conveyance, but FMCSA's guidance will be intended to provide usage examples and clear up questions on the matter.
Notably, DeLorenzo said the guidance will address when and how a driver can use the commercial motor vehicle for personal use outside the Hours of Service requirements — even when the vehicle is loaded.
Agricultural hauler exemption
FMCSA has had "a lot of discussions" with the agriculture industry about using ELDs, DeLorenzo said, and livestock haulers in particular.
"We do feel that at this time, those items require us to give a little further consideration," he noted, and FMCSA is granting a 90-day waiver starting Dec. 18 exempting agricultural product transporters from having to use ELDs.
"They will continue like they are today with the same Hours of Service rules and report their hours of service on a paper record of duty status," DeLorenzo explained.
During the 90-day waiver period, FMCSA will publish additional guidance on agricultural haulers' use of ELDs and get public comments. Current HOS rules allow agricultural commodities to be transported within a 150-air-mile radius of their source exempt from HOS requirements.
The guidance will "provide clarity on two specific issues" including how that 150-air-mile radius works. It also will discuss how empty miles and loading/ unloading time related to agricultural product transportation are exempt from HOS regulations.
"We'll be asking some questions as to what exactly is the source [of agricultural products] and whether you can have more than one source on any given day or any given trip so that we can provide the most flexibility for agricultural transporters," DeLorenzo added.