BY JOE GUINNTracking commercial drivers’ hours of service has always been somewhat of a cat-and-mouse game. Every trucker I have ever met or hired knows how to make a logbook appear to be legal, even if it simply means stopping at the next truck stop and buying another one for $1.29.
This well-known manipulation of federal limits on driving time is one of the reasons auditors spend so much time reviewing supporting documents like fuel receipts during an audit, and why safety groups have been advocating for some type of “tattletale” black boxes in trucks for the past 20 years. After decades of battling, their wish has come true.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has mandated that by December 2017, all commercial drivers required to prepare hours-of-service (HOS) records of duty status (RODS) must be using an electronic logging device (ELD) that plugs into a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). These ELD devices track HOS by logging when the vehicle is running and when it is driving, using that data to automatically fill out the driver’s daily log form—severely limiting the ability of drivers and companies to “cheat” their log sheets in an effort to get a few more hours out of their day. The HOS requirement isn’t changing, just the way it’s recorded.
When plugged into a vehicle, ELDs track vehicle information, including every time that a vehicle is started, how long it ran, when it is placed in gear, and length of time the vehicle has been driven. All of this information must be accounted for, as well as who started and moved the vehicle, and for what purpose. ELDs are required to keep an unedited account of this information, and it is mandatory for companies to then go in and specify that a vehicle was started and moved by car washers or taken to a shop for repairs.
In general, if you are required to maintain RODS currently, you will need to transition to ELDs. The ELD exemptions include:
• Drivers who operate under the short-haul exemptions may continue to use timecards
• Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than eight days out of every 30-day period
• Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000”
Drivers will need to pair and sync these devices with their electronic logbooks at the start of their day, and review all information since the last time the device was synced. It is the driver’s responsibility to claim the movement by adding it to their log sheet, or pass it onto the company which then must assign it to another driver or mark it as some other legal use of the vehicle.
As with many regulations, several exemptions exist. Drive-away carriers, companies that operate primarily locally, and vehicles made prior to the year 2000 all may qualify for exemptions from purchasing ELDs.
Since many chauffeurs stay within 100 air miles of their base for the vast majority of their trips, the ELD mandate allows them to exceed this range eight times in a 30-day period and still maintain their exemption. This does not exempt a company from maintaining HOS records for their chauffeurs, or exempt them from completing a paper or electronic log every time they exceed their local service area, or work beyond a 12-hour day, (e.g., 6 am to 6 pm). HOS regulations still apply.
For a luxury transportation company that occasionally exceeds these thresholds, there are ways to maximize your exemption. Since this mandate allows chauffeurs to exceed their area or clock hours up to eight times in a 30-day period, a company with 10 drivers may exceed that threshold 80 times per 30-day rotating period without needing to purchase and track ELD data. It is important to note that a 30-day period refers to a continuous cycle and not just a calendar month.
Companies will need to be aware of their chauffeur usage, but with a little planning you may not need to add this expense and extra burden to your operation. If you have questions about your particular operation, you can contact either a company like mine that specializes in compliance or the FMCSA directly. The latter can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800.832.5660. [CD0817]
Joe Guinn is the owner of Limo & Bus Compliance. He can be reached at email@example.com.