Vehicles on highway Design Pics/Don Hammond/ThinkstockPhotos

Agriculture gets additional 90-day waiver from electronic logging device rule

The congressionally mandated rule aims to make it easier to track vehicle status.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on March 13 an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the electronic logging device rule for agriculture-related transportation. 

The congressionally mandated electronic logging device rule is intended to make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status data. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service recording. 

During this time 90-day period, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance. FMCSA will continue its outreach to provide assistance to the agricultural industry and community regarding the ELD rule.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.

“The U.S. pork industry is grateful to DOT Secretary [Elaine] Chao and FMCSA Administrator Martinez for this additional waiver from the ELD rule, which poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “This will provide the department and Congress additional time to find a solution that meets the unique needs of livestock haulers. Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling regardless of any regulation.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says ELD technology doesn’t recognize the hours of service exemptions for agriculture that are in federal law.

“The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities,” Perdue said. “If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”

NPPC statement

A DOT rule issued in 2015 required truckers of commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce to replace their paper driving logs with Electronic Logging Devices by Dec. 18, 2017. In September 2017, the National Pork Producers Council petitioned the agency for a waiver and exemption from the requirement, and DOT provided an initial 90-day waiver – until March 18 – from the mandate for livestock haulers. A final decision on NPPC’s request for an exemption still is pending. 

ELDs, which can cost from $200 to $1,000 plus a $30-$50 monthly fee, record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, miles driven and location information. They electronically report that data to federal and state inspectors and supposedly help the DOT enforce its Hours of Service regulation. That rule limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again.

But because livestock such as pigs are vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures, long-established industry standards preclude drivers from stopping while hauling animals, and that could run them afoul of the ELD and Hours of Service rules, NPPC argued in asking for the waivers.

DOT did exempt from the Hours of Service regulations and from any distance-logging requirements truckers hauling livestock within a 150-air-mile radius of the location at which animals were loaded, but the exemption is not uniformly recognized and its implementation varies by state.

Compliance increasing

Since December 2017, roadside compliance with the House of Service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been steadily increasing, with roadside compliance reaching a high of 96% in the most recent available data. There are over 330 separate self-certified devices listed on the registration list. 

Beginning April 1, 2018, full enforcement of the ELD rule begins. Carriers that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out of service. The driver will remain out-of-service for 10 hours in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance criteria.  At that point, to facilitate compliance, the driver will be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop and should not be dispatched again without an ELD.  If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action.

The Agency is committed to continuing the ongoing dialogue on these issues.

The waiver and guidance will be published in the Federal Register.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, NPPC, USDA

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