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March 23, 2018 8:30 AM, EDT
ELDs Hot Topic at MATS as April Enforcement Ramp-Up Nears
FMCSA officials Joe DeLorenzo, Bill Mahorney FMCSA officials Mahorney (seated) and DeLorenzo discuss ELD enforcement during a seminar March 22, part of the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., March 21-24. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The federal mandate of electronic logging devices has been in effect since late last year, but some truckers still have lingering questions about the finer points of the regulation as tougher enforcement nears.

Officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sought to address many of those questions during a packed seminar March 22 here at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Since Dec. 18, most longhaul truck drivers have been required to use ELDs instead of paper logbooks to record their hours-of-service information, but enforcement action against carriers that still haven’t installed the devices has been limited to citations.

But that will change after April 1.

At that point, carriers caught operating without an ELD will be placed out of service.

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“If that happens, in accordance with [the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s] out-of-service criteria, it’s 10 hours off, just like if you had no log today,” said Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA’s office of compliance and enforcement.

After being placed out of service for 10 hours, drivers will be allowed to travel to their next scheduled stop, he said, but cannot be dispatched again without an ELD. If the driver does begin another trip without first installing an ELD, the driver and carrier will be subject to another 10 hours off.

While carriers may be cited for a variety of ELD-related violations, the only out-of-service violation will be failure to have a device, DeLorenzo said.

FMCSA officials also discussed proposed guidance on the use of trucks for personal conveyance and how to apply a shorthaul HOS exemption for haulers of agricultural commodities.

ELDs can enable drivers to select a special driving category for personal conveyance, such as driving home or to a restaurant while off duty. If the driver designates that driving time as personal conveyance, those miles are separated from the driver’s HOS compliance data.

While current guidance states that moving a laden vehicle can’t count as personal conveyance, FMCSA recently published a proposed revision that would eliminate that distinction and focus instead on the purpose of the movement.

FMCSA also has published proposed guidance aimed at clarifying an HOS exemption for agricultural haulers operating within a 150-mile radius of the source of the commodity.

Under that proposal, the regular 11 hours to drive within a 14-hour day under HOS would begin at zero at the moment the driver exits that 150-mile perimeter, regardless of how long the driver had been operating within the radius.

DeLorenzo also addressed the issue of unassigned miles, which he said is becoming “one of the biggest headaches” that carriers are experiencing with ELDs.

A common source of unassigned miles is vehicle moves by personnel such as maintenance technicians.

If those miles aren’t assigned, they are pushed to the next driver to log in. That driver must either accept or reject those miles, which can create extra administrative work for the back office.

Drivers at FMCSA seminar during MATS

Drivers listen as FMCSA officials discuss the ELD mandate during a seminar March 22 at MATS. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

DeLorenzo recommended that fleets create a “maintenance log-in” for technicians to account for those miles and eliminate the problem altogether.

Many attendees asked questions about several exemptions to the ELD mandate and when they apply.

Shorthaul drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile radius are exempt, as are drivers who exceed that range during no more than eight days in any 30-day period.

Also exempt from the ELD rule are drivers of trucks with engines built prior to 2000, including later-model glider kits equipped with pre-2000 engines. In that case, law enforcement typically will check the tag on the engine to verify its date of manufacture, DeLorenzo said.

For these types of ELD exemptions, driver knowledge and proper documentation can promote smoother roadside inspections, said Bill Mahorney, chief of the enforcement division at FMCSA’s office of enforcement and compliance.

“[That’s] one thing I can’t stress enough,” he said.