Brian Stout, Transportation Compliance Services USA
The latest DOT regulations mandating Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s) have generated more rumor, interpretation, speculation, and concern than any other Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation in recent memory. These new regulations should not come as a shock to anyone in the transportation industry because some version of this has been anticipated for nearly a decade. However, as the date approached for a more finalized version, rumors began to surface about who would be regulated, what weight class would be affected, and what would be exempted.
Now that the 126-page final rule has been published in the Federal Register, and we see that the Phase 1 effective date of February 16, 2016 has come and gone, questions and mystery still remain, and thus, calls and questions continue to roll into our office.
Let’s take a minute to briefly discuss how ELDs will affect CDL schools.
Electronic Logging Devices
The new ELD regulations in the FMCSR’s do not change who is subject to the FMCSR’s hours of service (HOS) requirements (Part 395). The current ruling just adds some additional stipulations to this part that establishes the mandatory use and definition of ELDs, sets minimum performance and design standards, identifies supporting documentation and retention, and addresses concerns regarding harassment of drivers using ELD’s.
Essentially, with a few exceptions, if you are required to complete a paper log book now, you will be required to implement ELDs. The only exemptions that have been released to date that may be different than usual HOS exemptions are for:
- any CMV’s older than model year 2000;
- drivers conducting drive away/tow away operations as a delivery of a CMV; or
- drivers using paper logs for 8 days or less a month (30 days).
These exemptions are limited to the ELD requirement only; these drivers are still bound by the records of duty status (RODS) requirements in 49 CFR Part 395.
How Does This Affect CDL Schools?
The question that is most frequently asked from CDL schools regarding DOT compliance requirements is, primarily, “Are we regulated, and to what extent?” The answer is yes, but depends on your particular circumstances. The particulars of your operations are very important in the analysis. Specifically, the question must be addressed from two perspectives: federal and state.
For the purposes of this question, we will assume that all of the commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) used by CDL schools are over 26,000 lbs Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), even though the regulations can identify a CMV in other ways. If the school is engaged in operating a private fleet (non-government) that is crossing state lines, they are subject to the rules and regulations found in the FMCSRs. Even if your school’s students are not crossing state lines with their CMVs, they will still be subject to certain requirements of the FMCSRs. However, generally speaking, most schools can claim an exemption from using paper logs and ultimately ELD’s if they operate their CDL classes inside of a 100 air mile radius from their base of operations and if their drivers/instructors/students return to and are released from duties within 12 hours.
As a reminder, just because a school or student may be exempted from regulations regarding ELDs, they are likely responsible for other requirements such as CDL licensing requirements, driver qualification, drug and alcohol testing, and more. Why? Because nearly every state has adopted either some or all of the federal FMCSR’s for their own intra-state laws. Moreover, even though the GVWR minimum threshold varies from state to state, all states consider the 26,001 lb GVWR weight class to be a commercial motor vehicle and will enforce some combination of federal and local standards. Depending on the state, this may include things such as driver qualification standards, vehicle maintenance procedures, registration requirements, accident policies and corrective action, and others including yes, hours of service (HOS) and now ELDs.
In our next article, we will discuss the other two phases of enforcement and the most frequently asked questions regarding ELDs. It is important to note that many state and federal auditors and investigators still have not been fully trained on the enforcement of these new regulations, both for roadside and on-site reviews. Since every company/school has their own unique set of procedures and types of operations, exercise caution before making any sizeable investments or operational decisions regarding ELDs.