Some Pleasant Surprises in a Recent FMCSA ELD Exemption Decision


By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting & ELD Consultant to PeopleNet

On October 20, 2017, FMCSA issued a favorable decision on two ELD exemption requests filed by UPS in late 2016. In one of its requests, UPS sought a small, technical exemption to allow its drivers to select “yard move” status while operating a truck in a company yard, and remain in that status even if the truck’s ignition is cycled off and back on again.  UPS sought a ‘special driving mode for yard moves’ exemption since the new ELD rules require ELD system software to reset a driver’s “yard move” status to “none” each time a truck’s ignition goes through a power off-on cycle.

Yard Moves and UPS

As described in its 2016 application, the average UPS “feeder driver” completes a minimum of 9 yard moves per day, during which they move trailers that are sitting uncoupled on a yard, as well as coupling or uncoupling inbound and outbound trailers.  As a safety precaution, UPS stated that its drivers must turn the truck off and remove the keys each time they exit the truck to perform the coupling or uncoupling task.  Without the technical exemption sought by UPS, the ELD rule means the average UPS driver would have to manually enter the “yard move” status on the ELD interface 18 times in each shift, with some doing so as many as 20 times per hour, according to UPS.  This one-button selection may only take a few seconds, but the amount of wasted time and money adds up quickly for a carrier of UPS’ size.  UPS calculated its annual cost for this “yard move” inefficiency at approximately $460,000 per year.  The cost associated with the inefficiency described by UPS was not lost on FMCSA, and they granted this technical relief to UPS for 5 years.  So where’s the pleasant surprise?  Please read on.

FMCSA also granted this same technical, software-oriented relief to the entire motor carrier industry for 5 years. This is the first pleasant surprise.

Here is what FMCSA Allows

And, while the broad industry application of this exemption is likely to be well received by many carriers, the more important pleasant surprise is in the “conditions” imposed by FMCSA on UPS and all other carriers who will use the exemptionAs FMCSA described in the notice announcing its decision, if a carrier configures an ELD to allow a ‘special driving mode for yard moves’ that will not require a driver to repeatedly enter that status (after a power off-on cycle), the ELD must automatically switch from “yard moves” status to “driving” status if the truck exceeds a speed of 20 mph, or the vehicle exits a geo-fenced motor carrier facility.  This is good news for the trucking industry! FMCSA has now allowed an automatic duty status change using reasonable, programmable parameters (>20 mph or exiting a geo-fenced yard) written into the ELD’s software.  More importantly, this automatic duty status change squarely addresses one of the most likely ELD-related challenges that drivers and company safety staff alike will face after December 18, 2017–that is, the administrative burden of editing and annotating a driver’s ELD record when a driver forgets to manually ‘de-select’ the “yard moves” status on the ELD interface before leaving a yard and beginning his next trip.

Let’s face it…it’s human nature.  We all forget to do things from time to time. And, as many of us have found out, we forget even more as we age.  Since the ELD rules were issued in 2015, and FMCSA prohibited almost all auto duty status changes, it’s been easy to see and anticipate that thousands of drivers each day would forget to take themselves out of “yard moves” status on their ELD, causing them to stop at some point during their trip to change their duty status, and edit and annotate their record.  This UPS exemption decision, and FMCSA’s willingness to allow all other carriers to take advantage of it, is a smart decision and one that will save countless hours and remove a large administrative burden on drivers and the industry. And, given the thousands of daily stops that won’t need to occur, there’s a very good chance it will be safer for professional drivers and the motoring public alike.

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