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October 19, 2020 9:30 AM, EDT

FMCSA Denies ELD Exemption for Drivers Traveling With Pets

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Can truck drivers use paper logs if Fido rides shotgun? No way, federal trucking regulators say.

In what seemed like an unusual request in March, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition asked for commercial motor vehicle drivers traveling with their pets to be exempt from electronic logging device requirements and be permitted to add two hours to their driving time and overall workday.

“FMCSA should reward these drivers for their safe operation by extending their day so they can take multiple rests for the comfort and convenience of their pets and to avoid fatigue,” the coalition wrote in a 10-page, March 2 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “Please eliminate the ELD requirement for them as it only causes them anxiety.”

SBTC-Pets by Transport Topics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied the exemption in an Oct. 16 Federal Register announcement, stating that the coalition failed to make a case that dropping the ELD requirement and extending drivers’ time on the road and workday would be safe.

“Despite some research that shows how domestic animals can improve driver feelings of companionship, and, anecdotally, safety, SBTC’s application does not support the agency’s obligation of ensuring an equivalent or greater level of safety than exists under the current regulation,” FMCSA said.

“If granted, the requested additional driving and on-duty time will expose drivers to a greater risk of fatigue, putting themselves and the public at risk, and the ELD exemption would make adherence to the hours-of-service rules much more difficult to verify,” the agency said.

In the letter to Chao seeking a five-year exemption, the group estimated that 1.4 million drivers travel with their pets not only for companionship and protection, but also for stress release, exercise, meeting new people and saving money for dog-sitters.

“We suggest that for most drivers who have and travel with pets, they consider the pets to be members of their family,” the letter said. “These drivers are a unique subset of the overall driver population because to many of them, these animals are equivalent to their sons and daughters.”

The group said that trucking can be a lonely profession, and dogs sitting in the cab passenger seat can even help drivers combat feelings of boredom, isolation and sadness. As a result, some large motor carriers are pet-friendly, and even inform employees of their pro-pet policies in their employee handbooks.

The coalition said that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has published a guide for traveling with animals. The guide encourages dog owners who take their dogs on the road to “stop to walk dogs often.”

Federal Register SBTC Pets by Transport Topics

The agency received more than 165 comments on the request, approximately 130 of which favored the exemption — many just stating their support of the request. Only 35 commenters opposed the exemption, including American Trucking Associations, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Truckload Carriers Association.

Some argued that if such an exemption is allowed, drivers will get a pet just to be exempt from regulations, creating numerous problems for pets as well as safety problems for other drivers on the road.

“FMCSA approval of this application would, in essence, apply an overbroad category of exempted individuals to an insufficiently defined class of exemption,” ATA wrote.

“The hours-of-service framework is put in place to prevent this type of excessive driving that causes fatigue,” CVSA wrote.

“We appreciate the immense value these beloved ‘family members’ bring to those drivers, and we see individual carriers’ pet policies as a significant way for them to differentiate themselves and recruit talent which may find that benefit attractive,” TCA wrote.

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