By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting & ELD Consultant to PeopleNet On November 20, 2017, FMCSA held a quickly assembled ELD briefing in Washington, DC to update industry stakeholders and the media on the Agency’s latest decisions concerning ELDs and the fast approaching December 18 compliance date. At the briefing, FMCSA provided participants with two new documents containing “ELD Transition Information,” neither of which appear to be currently posted to FMCSA’s ELD website. These documents can be viewed at links provided at the end of this post. During the briefing, FMCSA staff provided information in three broad categories: (1) ELD Enforcement Issues; (2) Upcoming Guidance; and, (3) Agricultural Commodity Issues.
If you pay close attention to ELD-related news, the enforcement information provided on November 20 may not be news to you. FMCSA staff explained that State enforcement officers will not administer out-of-service actions against drivers with serious ELD-related violations found during roadside inspections, including not having an ELD, until April 1, 2018. This decision was originally announced by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in late August. FMCSA also explained its decision to soften the impact of the ELD transition for all drivers and carriers by not assigning CSA points for ELD-related violations discovered and documented during roadside inspections between Dec. 18, 2017 and March 31, 2018. This information is more recent, with FMCSA publicly announcing that decision on November 15. FMCSA was careful to point out, however, that ELD and hours-of-service enforcement will still occur during roadside inspections, and States will continue to use their discretion on whether to issue fines for violations discovered.
Upcoming FMCSA Guidance
In this category, FMCSA provided two new pieces of information on November 20. First, FMCSA will be proposing “in a couple of weeks” newly created draft guidance on “personal conveyance” (PC). The draft guidance is intended to provide more clarity on when drivers can legally use the special PC category and, in the upcoming document, the Agency will provide examples of what it believes are common PC use scenarios. In an interesting twist, FMCSA staff communicated that the draft guidance will also propose a “slight expansion” of PC use by allowing laden trucks to be operated in PC status. (See FAQ #7 in the FMCSA document at link below). This guidance will not be final guidance when released—it will be in draft form and the industry/interested public will have a chance to review and comment before FMCSA finalizes it. Stay tuned. FMCSA is also planning to propose “in a couple of weeks” a second, draft guidance document describing how the existing HOS exemptions for agricultural commodities may be properly applied and used in ag trucking operations. The guidance will attempt to clarify, (1) that the HOS rules do not apply within a 150 air mile radius of a “source”, (2) that trips made under the exemption do not have to terminate within the 150 air miles, and (3) what is a “source” of an agricultural commodity from which the 150 air mile radius is to be calculated. Again, this document will be in draft form, and there will be an opportunity for the industry/public to comment before it’s issued in final form.
FMCSA also announced it will issue a 90-day waiver from the ELD compliance date for all agricultural commodity haulers. This waiver will begin on December 18, 2017. Agency staff communicated that this 90-day window will allow FMCSA to evaluate several exemption requests FMCSA recently received from some portions of the agricultural trucking community. No details were provided on these exemption requests, but it’s likely that FMCSA is providing the 90-day waiver, and seriously evaluating the merits of the exemption requests, as a result of the recent congressional interest in delaying the compliance date for livestock and other agricultural commodity truckers. Stay tuned as the ELD implementation landscape continues to change. FMCSA’s “ELD Transition Information – Frequently Asked Questions” document issued on November 20, 2017 can be found here. FMCSA’s second “Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Transition Information – November 20, 2017” document can be found here.