Confused on the ELD rule? FMCSA official tries to clear it up

 FMCSA's Joe DeLorenzo took plenty of questions from the audience as he tried to clear up confusion over the ELD rule during a session at the Mid-America Trucking Show. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

FMCSA's Joe DeLorenzo took plenty of questions from the audience as he tried to clear up confusion over the ELD rule during a session at the Mid-America Trucking Show. (Photo: Shutterstock)

With the hard deadline of April 1 fast approaching, the Mid-America Trucking Show seemed like a perfect place for FMCSA officials to connect with drivers and answer any questions they may still have concerning the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. And, boy, did they have questions.

As of April 1, enforcement officers will begin removing drivers from service who do not have a compliant ELD or grandfathered AOBRD.

Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at the ‎Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, spent an hour last week at the truck show in Louisville providing an overview of some aspects of the rule and taking questions from the audience, easily filling the time slot.

“It amazes me how many times people don’t understand how the rule works,” he said, quickly adding, “but it was written by Congress, so it can be confusing.”

DeLorenzo tried to clear up some of the confusion, including the 150 air-mile agricultural exemption, and whether drivers really need an ELD on April 1 (they do).

“Once you exit that 150 air-mile radius, that’s when you have to use the ELD and your 11 hours start,” he said. Pressed further for more clarity, DeLorenzo said that if an ag hauler (and they must meet the federal definition of an ag hauler, not a state’s) is taking a load of cows, the first 150 air miles (approximately 172 actual miles) do not count against hours of service limits. Once the driver goes to mile 151, he must start recording his driving time on the ELD.

FMCSA has issued proposed guidance on this and at the moment, DeLorenzo said the agency is considering whether that 150 air-mile exemption should also be included on the back end – meaning a driver could take 150 miles before 11 hours and 150 after 11 hours and still be compliant. That is not final at this point but is under consideration.

Currently, there is a 90-day waiver from the ELD rule for ag haulers that expires on June 18, 2018. DeLorenzo advised any driver using that exemption to carry a copy of the waiver in the vehicle.

In general, any driver that must currently fill out a Record of Duty Status (RODS) will need an ELD with a few exceptions, namely those who do not need to fill out a RODS more than 8 times in any 30-day period; those who are in drive away-tow away operations where the product being delivered is the vehicle being driven; and those using engines made before model year 2000.

There were several questions surrounding that last exemption, but DeLorenzo reiterated that the rule applies to engine year, not truck year. For example, a 2009 truck model that features a 1998 engine is exempt. A 1998 truck model with a 2009 engine is not.

There was a question on a reman’d engine and DeLorenzo said that enforcement officers have been instructed to follow the model year listed on the engine’s tag. If the company performing the reman feels the engine is no longer an original engine and puts a new model year on the engine, then the engine goes by that model year.

Another attendee wanted to know how enforcement would know what model year the engine is. “When you do an engine swap, normal DOT regulations require you to keep paperwork at the fleet location,” DeLorenzo said. “You shouldn’t have to keep paperwork in the truck. Officials have been trained to look for the model year on the engine and if they can’t find it, they should take the word of the driver.”

He did add that if you have the paperwork in the truck, while not required, it could make the process smoother.

During the early periods of the law, one trouble spot that keeps popping up has been the transmission of data. Drivers are required by the law to maintain a data transfer instruction sheet in their vehicles at all times. That sheet should explain how to transfer data to officers, but DeLorenzo said it is the one having the most trouble right now.

Drivers are also required to keep a user manual, supply of blank RODS and any supporting documents in the vehicle at all times. If a device malfunctions, the driver should switch of paper recording of hours of service compliance and get the device repaired. The driver (or fleet) has 8 days by law to get the device fixed, however, if more time is needed, an extension can be requested.

Finally, DeLorenzo noted that fleets need to make sure the driver knows which device they are using – an ELD or AOBRD – and how to operate it.

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