The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made public the denials of 10 exemption requests from its ELD rule – underscoring the difficulty smaller trucking companies and organizations that rely on them are having in attempting to gain relief from the mandate.
The rejections, including that of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, whose five-year exemption request was formally denied in June, were made public in a December 6 Federal Register notice after being denied earlier this year.
OOIDA’s request, which had been sought on behalf of smaller company drivers that didn’t have an “unsatisfactory” carrier rating, was denied because, among other things, the group failed to consider the “significant difficulty” in trying to identify and validate drivers who would have met the exemption criteria, especially during roadside inspections, the agency said.
The current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations require motor carriers ensure their drivers use electronic logging devices in place of written logs to record their duty status for each 24-hour period, with certain exceptions for short-haul operations within a 100 air-mile radius, along with agricultural operations within a 150 air-mile radius.
But the Power and Construction Association, one of the nine other groups denied an exemption in the December 6 notice, argued that because construction contractors spend much of their time off-road on different jobsites with limited time spent on public roads, the ELD mandate doesn’t translate into safety benefits for drivers in their industries.
Likewise, the Western Equipment Dealers Association, which was looking to eliminate the requirement that agricultural equipment dealers install ELDs on their commercial vehicles, asserted that such operations are “unique,” and that the requirement would “pose an undue burden” without measurable benefits.
FMCSA denied both applications on grounds that the agency would not be able to ensure that requested exemptions “would provide the requisite level of safety.”
Notable also among FMCSA’s rejection list is the Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA), a Kansas City, Mo.-based trade group representing more than 35,000 towing companies in all 50 states, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.
As with OOIDA, TRAA had asked for a five-year exemption from the rule. In TRAA’s case, the exemption would have applied to all operators of commercial vehicles owned or leased to providers of motor vehicle towing, recovery, and roadside repair services.
TRAA also used the “uniqueness” argument to plead its case, and that failing to grant an exemption would lead to confusion and cause unnecessary burdens for its members.
FMCSA concluded, however, that while TRAA’s plan to continue to use paper records would be comparable to the level of safety prior to the implementation of the ELD rule, it would not achieve equivalent safety levels provided by ELDs.
The remaining applicants on the December 6 public list denied an exemption are American Disposal Service, National Electrical Contractors Association, the Agricultural Retailers Association, Cudd Energy Services, and SikhsPAC and North American Punjabi Trucker Association.
The rejections are the latest illustration of the extent small and niche players in the over-the-road transportation markets have attempted to claim that ELDs can cause more harm than good and ultimately could make smaller businesses less competitive.
But in the lead up to and implementation of the ELD mandate – in which complete compliance was required by April 1 - FMCSA has maintained that research supporting the rule shows that ELDs would improve safety while actually reducing overall paperwork burdens for carriers and drivers while improving compliance with hours of service rules.