Federal trucking regulators are exempting too many motor carriers from electronic logging device requirements and other regulations, creating “confusion and inconsistency in enforcement,” according to the organization representing roadside commercial vehicle inspectors.
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“Since 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued nearly 50 exemptions to motor carriers, waiving regulatory requirements for certain segments of the transportation industry,” said a letter written to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez last month. “This is in addition to the dozens of legislative and regulatory exemptions already in place.”
The letter, written by Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Executive Director Collin Mooney, added that “over the last two years, the agency has issued a number of exemptions from the electronic logging device requirement, a critical safety requirement designed to help combat fatigue on our nation’s roadways and designed to level the playing field for motor carriers seeking to operate safely within the hours-of-service rules.”
Further, the letter asks that the agency give CVSA and its state and local partners a seat at the table in the exemption decision-making process. Not only do the exemptions too often create confusion for inspectors, they also require additional training, CVSA said.
“This issue is further complicated when motor carriers are made aware of an exemption before the enforcement community, setting up a scenario where conflict may arise roadside when a driver and company have communication from the agency indicating they are exempt, but the enforcement community is unaware,” CVSA said.
CVSA said it has long opposed issuance of exemptions, except when a motor carrier can “demonstrate that there is a proven, critical need and provide assurances that an equivalent level of safety will be attained. In short, exemptions should be the exception, not the rule.”
“Inspectors must be able to perform their duties without the apprehension that one of these exemptions will be overlooked, a driver or vehicle placed out of service notwithstanding an obscure exemption, or an exemption being given to a driver or vehicle that is not in a privileged, segmented or specialized exemption category,” CVSA’s letter said.
In a separate letter to FMCSA, the organization representing 4,000 inspectors in the United States, Canada and Mexico asked that the agency put a limit on driver personal conveyance mileage and/or time.
Personal conveyance is off-duty time after drivers have reached their 11-hour driving time limit. To claim the exemption, a driver must be relieved from work by the employer and any subsequent movement of the truck after that would have to be of a personal nature. There are numerous conveyance scenarios, but some of the more common ones include a driver returning home, or looking for a hotel, parking place or restaurant. However, drivers cannot advance their loads closer to their delivery destination during conveyance time.
An FMCSA spokesman confirmed the agency was in receipt of the materials saying both items are under review, but declined further comment.
CVSA believes the agency’s recently revised guidance lacks “definitive language” and leaves it up to the inspector’s interpretations of what is “reasonable.”
“Under the revised guidance, a driver could, in theory, drive hundreds of miles over the course of several hours all under the designation of personal conveyance,” CVSA said. “This presents the opportunity for increased driver fatigue and risk on our roadways, as drivers may decide to travel hundreds of miles in order to strategically relocate to an alternate location after driving a full day.”
CVSA suggested that FMCSA study the standard set in Canada, which allows drivers to use a vehicle for personal conveyance purposes for a maximum of 46 miles per day.
“American Trucking Associations believes the best way to address exemptions to the hours-of-service rules is by moving forward with their ongoing review of the current rules,” said Sean McNally, ATA spokesman. “Ensuring the rules are flexible and recognizing the trucking industry’s diversity is the best way to reduce the number and scope of exemption requests.”
On the personal conveyance issue, McNally said ATA is currently reviewing CVSA’s personal conveyance petition and will be providing feedback to the agency if requested.