The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said today it will grant truck haulers of agriculture products a 90-day exemption from compliance with the agency's mandate to equip their trucks with electronic logging devices (ELD) to monitor a driver's workday.
In a statement issued late today, FMCSA said it authorized the exemption to "address the unique needs of the country's agriculture industries" and to "provide further guidance" in complying with the rule, which went into effect last Dec. 18. The exemption would appear to give a large segment of the trucking population a compliance break until around mid-June.
What is notable about the FMCSA's press release is that it didn't refer to specific commodities but said instead that the exemption applies to providers of "agriculture related transportation." This would cover an enormous swath of the nation's truckers. An FMCSA spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on queries about the specifics of the exemption.
It had been believed that the exemption would apply to haulers of livestock; in early February, two Congressmen from livestock-producing states asked the FMCSA to grant a petition from the leading owner-operator driver trade group for a five-year ELD exemption for drivers that meet specific criteria.
FMCSA also said today it would publish final guidance on the so-called 150 air-mile exemption for agriculture haulers. Under the ELD rule, agriculture drivers who operate about 165 road miles per shift-the rough equivalent of 115 air miles-would be permanently exempt from the mandate. That would cover most drivers of livestock products, according to Randy Mullett, a transport lobbyist.
The 90-day exemption means that ag haulers will miss the April effective date of full roadside enforcement of the ELD rule. Carriers that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out of service for 10 hours. The driver will then be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop but cannot be dispatched again without an ELD in the vehicle. If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action.
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez, who was recently confirmed for the post, said that the agency continues to see strong ELD compliance rates "nationwide across the country," and that the numbers are improving with each week.
The ELD rule is designed to use digital tools to ensure a driver is complying with federal regulations governing the number of hours a driver can work, and the number of hours spent behind the wheel.