OOIDA request for a small business ELD exemption gets thumbs down by FMCSA

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An OOIDA request for an exemption from the ELD rule for small carriers--by definition just about the entire OOIDA membership--has been denied by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

OOIDA—the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association--said Tuesday in a prepared statement that the request, first submitted in late November, had been denied.  The notice from FMCSA, dated July 2, was not immediately available.

The request for the exemption was for five years and would have covered small businesses as defined by the Small Business Administration. In the November 21 petition to FMCSA, the exemption request was for drivers that would meet the small business definition, who didn't have a carrier rating of "unsatisfactory," and could "document a proven history of safety performance with no attributable at-fault crashes."

In the original petition, the lack of certification of many ELD devices was raised as a significant issue by OOIDA. It still is an issue, according to the organization. "Most small-business motor carriers can ill afford to make these purchases only to learn later that the ELD is non-complaint," OOIDA executive vice president Todd Spencer said in the statement. Giving a five-year exemption would allow that certification process to be completed, OOIDA said.

OOIDA also said in essence that the agency was not consistent. "For months, the FMCSA has been granting exemptions to other organizations, some not even actually in trucking, but relying on trucks for their business," Spencer said.

FMCSA has granted five-year exemptions; the Motion Picture Association of America received one earlier this year. More significant exemptions have been shorter term, like the 90-day exemption--now completed--for haulers of agricultural products, and an exemption for livestock haulers that goes to the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30.

According to the original OOIDA petition, the federal Small Business Administration defines a small transportation business as having average annual revenue of $27.5 million or less. "For the majority of owner-operators and independent drivers, that figure is significantly less," OOIDA said in its petition.

A competing group for the attention of independent owner/operators, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition, jumped on the OOIDA denial and said drivers should now get behind SBTC’s own efforts on an ELD exemption. The period for comments on the SBTC request closes July 5.

That ELD exemption asks for relief for "small private, common and contract motor carriers with fewer than 50 employees," according to the comments page set up on the regulations.gov site.

The SBTC petition says the “ELD rule is not a 'safety regulation' per se as the FMCSA has concluded. Rather it is a mechanism intended to enforce a safety regulation by regulating the manner in which a driver records and communicates his compliance."

In a LinkedIn post published by SBTC President James Lamb, he rips the OOIDA approach in its exemption request. His argument is that by requiring the exemption under the OOIDA approach to be based in part on safety record, it would have put too much pressure on the inspector in the field. But if the exemption is tied to mere size, an inspector can easily determine if a truck that has been pulled over is from a company that fits under the 50-employees-or-less guideline sought by SBTC.