By Dave Osiecki, Pres., Scopelitis Transportation Consulting and Consultant to PeopleNet
If you’ve spent time in or around the trucking industry, you know that many professional drivers operate under the longstanding “100 air-mile radius exception.” This regulatory ‘short haul’ exception has been on the books for decades and is fairly straightforward—drivers operating within 100 air miles of their normal work location and finishing their work day at their normal work location within 12 consecutive hours do not have to prepare a daily paper log of their activities (but the company must maintain a time record showing time in, time out, and total hours worked each day). In 2012, when Congress passed a law requiring the USDOT to mandate ELD use by professional truck drivers, they recognized that many drivers operate locally, they don’t work long hours and, as a result, they don’t complete a daily paper log. This recognition led Congress to allow the USDOT to exempt from the ELD mandate ‘short haul’ drivers not required to complete a daily paper log. But, as simple as that may sound, the application of this paper logbook exception to the ELD mandate got a bit more complicated when it came to ‘rule writing’ time at FMCSA.
FMCSA realized that many short haul drivers who regularly operate under the 100 air-mile radius exception** are also faced with a common trucking reality—that is, any given load may take a driver outside the 100 air-mile radius, or the delivery location coupled with an increasingly congested road system, may cause a driver to return to his work location more than 12 hours after departing. In either of these cases, a driver is ineligible for the 100 air-mile radius logbook exception that day, and must prepare a paper log for that day. During ELD rule-writing time, FMCSA had to answer the following question—how many times may a driver operate outside of the 100 air-mile radius exception before that driver is required to use an ELD? After receiving and considering input from the trucking industry on this question, FMCSA decided the ELD rule should allow a ‘100 air-mile radius driver’** to operate outside the 100 air-mile radius exception for not more 8 days within any 30-day period, and still be exempt from use of an ELD. This means that, under the new ELD rules, a typical ‘100 air-mile radius driver’ is still only required to complete a paper log for those days (up to 8) when reality hits and he/she exceeds the 100 air miles or the 12-consecutive hour limitation. This also means that a driver is required to use an ELD if he/she operates outside the 100 air-mile radius exception for 9 or more days within any 30-day period.
But, after FMCSA published its ELD mandate rules, an important question remained unanswered. That is, if a driver operates outside the 100 air-mile radius exception** for 9 or more days within any 30-day period, how long must this short haul driver use an ELD when operating his/her truck in the future. Forever? For a year? For a month? Until the cows come home? In March, 2017, in response to an industry inquiry, FMCSA answered this question in writing with the following, short response: “Yes, the driver can return to recording his/her records of duty status on a paper log when the operation meets the requirements of a short haul operation.” Wait…what? What does that answer mean? It means that the “any 30-day period” is a rolling 30 days. As soon as the driver is back within the “not more than 8 days within any 30-day period” rule, he/she can return to using a paper log. If it helps, think of this new ‘8 days within any 30-days’ rule just as you would think of the ’70 hours in any 8-day period’ rule.
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If you have any other questions related to the ELD Mandate, be sure to visit PeopleNet’s ELD Mandate Resource Page.
** Note: There is also a similar 150 air-mile radius exception from paper logs for non-CDL drivers. FMCSA’s new ‘8 days within any 30-days’ rule also applies to drivers regularly operating under the 150 air-mile exception.