Updated: Mar 7, 2021
Since 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has required commercial drivers to log their daily duty status through Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). Since ELDs must be integrally synchronized to a commercial vehicle's engine, the idea behind the FMCSA's mandate is that ELDs should cut down on instances of log falsifications. Whether that's borne out by the data is yet to be seen, but I think it's safe to say that ELDs are here to stay. The question, then, is what operations are exempt from the ELD mandate? We will take a closer look at each of these exemptions and some of their nuances below, but generally speaking:
The following categories of drivers/operations are explicitly exempt from the ELD mandate by rule:
Driveaway-towaway operations in which the vehicle being driven is part of the shipment being delivered;
Driveaway-towaway operations in which the vehicle being transported is a motor home or recreation vehicle trailer;
Drivers operating vehicles that were manufactured before model year 2000, as reflected in the vehicle identification number as shown on the vehicle's registration; and
Drivers who operate in a manner that requires completion of a record of duty status on not more than 8 days within any 30-day period (e.g., short-haul drivers).
In addition to these regulatory exemptions, there are also some other more specific exemptions that the FMCSA has implemented through waivers.
Carriers and drivers who are engaged in the business of transporting new or used vehicles (e.g., cars, trucks, buses, RVs, etc.) are generally exempt from the ELD mandate, so long as the vehicle being operated is the actual commodity being delivered. In contrast, drivers who are hauling vehicles on a trailer being pulled by a truck that is not, itself, part of the shipment are not exempt from the ELD rule. The rationale for this exemption is that when a carrier or driver is hired to move a vehicle that it does not own or lease, which is itself the shipment being delivered, it is impracticable if not impossible for them to install an ELD into that vehicle.
Model Year 2000 Exemption
Next up, those who operate commercial vehicles that were manufactured prior to model year 2000 (i.e., 1999 or older) are exempt from the ELD rule. For purposes of determining the vehicle's model year, you will generally look to the 10th character of the vehicle's 17-character VIN, and then cross-reference the following chart:
VIN Model Year Chart
However, the FMCSA has acknowledged that what matters is the engine's model year, not necessarily the vehicle's. In other words, in instances where the model year of the engine and the vehicle body differ, we must look to the engine model year to determine if the ELD mandate applies. This most commonly occurs when a vehicle is rebuilt using a "glider kit" or when an engine is replaced or swapped. Vehicles with engines that predate model year 2000 are exempt from the ELD rule even if the vehicle's VIN indicates that the vehicle is a later model year. In such situations, the regulations require carriers to maintain all documentation on motor and engine changes at their principal places of business, though drivers need not have copies of that documentation with them in the vehicles.
8 Days in a 30-Day Period Exemption
Perhaps the most sweeping ELD exemption of them all is the "8 days in a 30-day period" exemption. According to the regulation, a driver who operates "in a manner requiring completion of a record of duty status on not more than 8 day s within any 30-day period" is exempt from the ELD mandate." So what's this mean in practice?
Generally, this exemption will apply most often to drivers who fall under the "short-haul exemption," which is an exemption from the agency's records-of-duty-status requirement for drivers who operate exclusively within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location and who are released from that work reporting location within 14 hours of first coming on duty. Drivers who qualify for the short-haul exemption are not required to keep detailed logs of their duty status each day, though they are required to keep daily timecards. Drivers who qualify for the short-haul exemption are also exempt from the ELD mandate, and remain so even if they exceed the scope of the short-haul exemption on a particular day, provided they don't do so more than 8 times in a rolling 30-day period. Put differently, drivers who ordinarily stay within a 150 air-mile radius and work no more than 14 hours a day are exempt from the ELD mandate, unless and until they exceed those thresholds more than 8 times in a 30-day period.
Aside from the explicit exemptions set forth in the ELD rule itself, the FMCSA has also granted a few specific waivers based on applications made by certain industry groups. The most significant of these is the exemption provided to motor carriers who rent property-carrying commercial motor vehicles for 8 days or fewer at a time. To meet this exemption, carriers and their drivers must maintain the following:
A copy of the waiver, which is published here;
A copy of the rental agreement with the parties to the agreement and the vehicle(s) clearly identified, with a stated rental term of 8 days or fewer; and
a copy of the driver's record of duty status for the current day and the prior 7 days, if he/she was required to log his/her time those days.
Before claiming that your drivers are exempt from the ELD mandate, you'll obviously want to ensure they actually meet the conditions of those exemptions discussed above. Moreover, just because a driver is exempt from the ELD mandate does not mean that he/she is also exempt from the records-of-duty-status requirement. In other words, if a driver falls within one of these exemptions, it simply means that he/she is allowed to continue logging his/her duty status on paper graph-grid logs rather than through an ELD--the one exception being short-haul drivers who are also exempt from the records-of-duty-status requirement.
For more information on ELDs and the federal safety regulations in general, be sure to check out our DOT Compliance: The Basics eBook. And for in-depth lessons on these types of regulatory topics, please take a look at our Trucksafe Academy!