July 5, 2018

FMCSA denies owner-operator group bid for 5-year exemption from ELD mandate

Request did not address difficulties in validating drivers who meet exemption criteria, agency tells OOIDA.

By DC Velocity Staff

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has denied a request by the leading trade group for independent truck drivers to exempt a broad swath of drivers from a requirement that their rigs be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) to monitor drivers' hours of service compliance.

According to the Independent Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), it was told by the agency on Tuesday that most of OOIDA's request focused on challenging the basis of the rule, and that it failed to recognize how hard it would be for inspectors to identify and validate drivers who would meet the group's criteria for an exemption, especially during roadside inspections.

In November, OOIDA requested a five-year exemption for carriers classified as "small businesses" according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), that have no record of attributable at-fault crashes, and that do not have a carrier safety rating of "unsatisfactory" under federal regulations. The trade group, which represents about 150,000 members, has said it doesn't know how many drivers would have been eligible for exemptions under its criteria.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, OOIDA President Todd Spencer said he was "puzzled and disappointed" with FMCSA's decision, especially since the agency has granted exemptions to other organizations, even those that aren't in trucking but that use trucks to support their operations. OOIDA, which has for years fought unsuccessfully in Congress and the courts to delay or reverse the mandate, said it remains hopeful Congress will address the issue. An FMCSA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The mandate, which went into effect last December and was enforced on the roads starting April 1, requires virtually all fleets to replace their paper logs with digital logging technology. FMCSA originally granted various exemptions to the mandate, and it has granted additional exemptions during the past nine months.

OOIDA has fought bitterly against the mandate, arguing that it violates the 4th Amendment protections against illegal search and seizurebecause it requires the installation of a warrantless tracking device. The mandate does not improve highway safety, increases carrier costs, and deploys equipment that has been unproven and uncertified by the agency, the group has said.

In a statement issued yesterday, James P. Lamb, president of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition, which has also filed an ELD exemption, said OOIDA's petition was bound to failbecause it was asking too much of law enforcement officials. Inspectors, Lamb said would have to "arbitrarily determine whether a driver was exempt based on various aspects of the safety record of the carrier, which the driver being inspected was employed by." That record, based on FMCSA records, "has too many variables," Lamb said. 

"Too much of the onus was placed on the inspector in the field," Lamb said of OOIDA's petition.


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