ELD Mandate Exemptions

According to a study by the FMCSA or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2014, the introduction of ELD devices could prevent approximately 1714 crashes, 522 injuries and 24 deaths every year. The FMCSA has also reported that 4400 large buses and trucks were involved in deadly crashes in 2016. These numbers show the alarming number of casualties that happen each year due to motor accidents. It was perhaps keeping this high casualty rate in mind that the FMCSA introduced the mandate that requires a digital calculation of a driver’s hours of service.

Before delving into the exemptions of the ELD Mandate, let us first understand what an ELD device is and why it is now required.

ELD or Electronic Logging Device (also called E-log) monitors a truck’s engine and records the hours it has driven. The FMCSA has made it mandatory for almost all commercial vehicles to have an ELD device installed so that the HOS or Hours of Service can be accurately calculated. Having an ELD device in a truck saves drivers time and effort from keeping manual paper logs. There are some who argue that ELD devices aren’t a perfect solution and also create very rigid requirements that may not work for every truck driver. Regardless, they are a legal requirement for almost all truck drivers, the exemptions of which will be discussed in this article. But first:

What is HOS?

Since the Federal Government undertook the regulation of commercial vehicles in 1938, the HOS or Hours of Service rule came into effect. This was done so that drivers of commercial vehicles could not be over-exploited by trucking companies, and also so that commercial drivers would not have to drive in a fatigued state. It has been found that most road accidents are caused when drivers are too tired to drive. Hits of exhaustion lead to mistakes which in turn can cause fatal accidents. According to a Governor’s Highway Safety Association report, about 5,000 people died in crashes related to drowsy driving in 2015. The NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Association has estimated that every year, the police reports about 100,000 drowsy driving related crashes. Also, the NHTSA has estimated an economic impact of these crashes as well. The deaths or injuries due to drowsy driving cost around $109 billion annually to society, excluding property damage charges.

Freeway Busy Night
A Busy Freeway Night

The government has been fairly stringent on drivers and fleet owners who don’t follow HOS rules. For example:

A driver of C & J Trucking Company of Londonderry, New Hampshire was involved in a crash on 2nd August, 1995 in Londonderry (Interstate 93). The accident resulted in the death of 4 people. This induced an investigation which showed that the company did not follow the HOS regulations. The owners willingly allowed their drivers to violate the HOS rules. In order to not get caught by FHWA or Federal Highway Association, they paid the drivers for the ‘illegal hours’ off the books from an account other than the regular payroll account. The owners were sentenced to federal prison in 1999.

What are the HOS rules?

According to the most recent rule, the driver of a commercial vehicle can drive for 8 hours during the first stretch. After that, a break of 30 minutes has to be taken. The hours driven by a commercial driver cannot exceed 11 hours in a working day of 14 hours. After completing the 14 hours shift, the driver has to be off-duty for 10 hours. Also, the driver cannot work more than 60 hours during a 7-day work week. There are additional rules and each state can have separate HOS requirements as well. For more details you can go to the FMCSA website (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations).

Why is an ELD Device required for commercial vehicles?

Cargo Truck Driving in day time

The FMCSA has made it a requirement for trucks to have an ELD device. This applies to most of the drivers and motor carriers who are required to keep a log of RODS or Records of Duty Status according to Part 395, 49 of CFR 395.8 (a). All commercial drivers operating in America have to follow the ELD Mandate unless they fall under any of the exemption categories listed below. If the commercial driver’s duty takes the vehicle to a different jurisdiction, the driver will have the option to annotate the status of the records of the duty to note that the driver spent time functioning outside the borders of America directly on the ELD device. Additionally, commercial trucks and buses, including domiciled drivers of Canada and Mexico are required to adhere to the ELD mandate.

Who are Domiciled Drivers?

Domicile is the area or locality where a person maintains permanent residence. It is the place where the person intends to return to after a period of absence. The term domicile is used in order to determine where one pays taxes, casts votes, claims benefits, files lawsuits and follows governmental authority. A person can actually have only one domicile at one particular time. Hence, a domiciled driver of Canada or Mexico refers to a driver who is a permanent registered resident of Canada or Mexico.

The ELD Mandate wanted trucks to have an E-log on or before December 2017. However, there are some exceptions to the ELD Mandate which allows some vehicles to operate without the installation of an ELD device.

What are the ELD Mandate Exemptions?

ELD Mandate Exemptions Let's Get Started

1. Engines manufactured before 2000:

ELD Mandate exemption pre 2000

In order to install an ELD device, a truck must have an ECM or an Engine Control Module. Most trucks which were made before 2000 do not have an ECM and thus make it difficult for an ELD device to work. Hence, if the engine of a truck was manufactured before 2000 (so 1999 and older), that truck is not required to have an ELD device installed. The first step to figure out if this exemption applies is to look at the model year of the truck. This can be done by finding the VIN of the truck on the vehicle registration and then putting that on a VIN Decoder online to find the exact model year of the truck. It must be remembered that an engine can be replaced as well, regardless of the truck’s model. So be cognizant of a new engine being put into an older truck body. If that is the case then you may still need an ELD Device.

There are certain nuances to this rule. Certain trucks are “glider kit” trucks where a new frame of a truck is given an older engine. In that case, even if the model year of the truck is 2000 or later if the engine was from before 2000 then it will be exempt under this rule. If stopped, a driver is not required to carry documentation showing the engine year; however, motor carriers/fleet owners should keep all documentation of engine and motor changes at hand as according to 49 CFR Part 379.

Even if a vehicle lacks ECM connectivity but is manufactured in 2000 or after, it will not be treated as an exception and has to use an ELD device that does not depend on the ECM connectivity to generate the required data.

Trucks without an ECM need to get pulses via either a pulse sensor or an electronic speedometer assembly in driveline or in transmission. Next, this has to be combined with an internal GPS connected to the ELD hardware. However, the operators need to purchase a universal ECM that uses the J1939 connector and makes use of the speed sensor on transmission to detect any vehicle movement along with the number of miles driven.  The universal ECM has to be calibrated with the truck’s gear ratio and tire size. Through this the average miles per hour can also be calculated.  By making these changes in a truck which doesn’t have an ECM an ELD device can work.

2. Drivers with RODS of 8 Days or less:

An ELD device is not required for drivers whose RODS are 8 days or less in a 30-day span. It is not necessary that the 30 days be in one particular month. Nevertheless, even if ELD devices are not a legal requirement, these drivers are required to maintain paper logs.

This exemption has been made keeping in mind short-haul drivers who at times have to take up long-haul duties. This ensures that infrequent long-haul drivers do not necessarily need to upgrade their trucks with an ELD device.

However, this exemption will only be valid if the driver is taking up long hauls for 8 days or less in a 30-day cycle. If the driver takes up long hauls for more than 8 days in a month, an ELD device must be installed.

3. Driveaway-towaway Operation Drivers: 

What is a Driveaway-towaway Operation? This is when an empty or unladen truck/tractor/trailer (which has at least one set of wheels on the road) is being transported from one location to another. If the vehicle driving this operation is part of the cargo or shipment itself then an ELD device is not required. Additionally, if the shipment being transported is a motorhome or recreational vehicle trailer, then an ELD device is not required.  

4. Farmer’s Vehicles:

Farmers ELD Exemption

Certain farmer’s vehicles do not require an ELD device. All the exemptions listed here apply to farmer vehicles as well. An additional exemption is in place for the private transportation of agricultural commodities. When things such as machinery, livestock and supplies are transported from a farm by the farm’s employees or a family member or the owner operator, an ELD device is not required.

5. Short-haul Exemptions:

Some drivers who specifically do short-hauls are not required to follow the ELD Mandate. There are two sub-categories under this exemption:

100 air-mile radius:

The first and foremost criteria is for commercial drivers who drive within a 100 air-miles from their reporting location. This means that generally these drivers transport goods to a specific location or complete a daily delivery of goods. They return their work trucks daily at the end of the working day and go home. These drivers generally begin and end their days at the same reporting location. The working shift of these drivers generally lasts for 12 hours. Having a 12-hour working shift entails these drivers to get 10 hours off duty time every day. Also, these short-haul drivers do not drive for more than 11 hours in a day (which is mandatory for all drivers).

150 air-mile radius:

Certain non-commercial drivers fall under this category of the ELD Mandate exemptions. This exemption is for a non-commercial driver who drive within a 150 air-mile radius of their reporting location. They also must return to their regular reporting location after completing each duty-tour. These non-commercial drivers cannot drive any vehicle that requires a CDL or Commercial Driver’s License. They cannot drive their non-commercial vehicles after 14 hours or 16 hours of coming on duty after 5 days or 2 days of a 7-day period, respectively.

What is an air mile?

From the FMCSA: 1 air mile is defined as a nautical mile which is equivalent to 6,076 feet or 1,852 meters. Thus 100 air miles is the equivalent of 115.08 regular miles or 185.2 kilometers. 150 air miles is equivalent to 172.6 miles or 277.8 kilometers.

Even if the drivers are exempt from ELD devices or E-logs, they have to keep either manual paper records or can also use a logging software device if they’d like. It doesn’t matter if the truck is owned or leased. These rules do not change based on ownership type.

There are 3 additional limited exemptions which have been approved for the next few years by the FMCSA. Each of these exemptions postpones the requirement of adding an ELD device.

A. Trucks Rented for 8 Days or Less

This exemption is applicable till Oct 11, 2022. Any Truck that is rented for 8 days or less, regardless of use, is exempt from requiring an ELD device. While driving, HOS rules may still apply and thus paper logs would be required. Additionally, it is required for the driver to keep a copy of the rental agreement at hand.

This exemption has been granted to the TRALA or the Truck Renting and Leasing Association so that all Commercial Motor Vehicles that are rented for 8 days or less do not need to have an ELD device installed in their vehicles. If initially rented for 8 days or less but if the rental time is extended past 8 days then an ELD device may be required.

B. UPS is given partial exemption

This exemption has been granted to the United Parcel Service Inc. for the next five years till Oct 20, 2022. UPS is not fully exempt from ELD Devices, rather two rules have been modified specifically for the UPS. First exemption is that UPS drivers are allowed to change the duty status on the ELD device even when not in their vehicles. This is mainly due to the fact that UPS workers punch into work outside their vehicle and perform ‘On-Duty’ tasks outside their vehicle as well. This allows portable driver-based ELD devices to be used by UPS drivers.

The second exemption has to do with yard moves and it allows carriers to provide a special yard move option to the UPS when in their own premises that doesn’t require a driver to re-input yard-move status each time the tractor is turned off.

C. Motion Picture Association Truck Drivers

ELD Mandate Exemption MPAA

This exemption is applicable till January 19, 2023. All the CMV or commercial motor
vehicle drivers who are involved in transporting goods to and from a television or theatrical motion picture site have been granted a 5 year exemption. Instead of using an ELD device, they will be allowed to keep the RODS or paper records of duty status. Keeping in mind the unique way in which the commercial motor vehicle drivers who are associated with the MPAA or the Motion Picture Association of America operate and added oversight of their RODS, the FMCSA has agreed to let them complete RODS instead of an ELD device. This is mainly due to the fairly complex HOS that a CMV driver has to keep when part of the MPAA.

The Future of ELD Mandate Exemptions

It must be taken into account that the trucks that had purchased and installed an AOBRD device on or prior to 17th December 2018, are actually running on an extension period.  Even these trucks will have to install an ELD device by 16th December, 2019, beyond which they will not be allowed to operate. Even though passing any of the above conditions exempts a truck from having an ELD device installed, it may still be beneficial for the driver to have the ELD device to future proof any changes to the rules.

Information on Smartest Trucking is not intended to constitute legal advice. Instead the content on this site is for general informational purposes only. This sentence is written because I am scared of getting sued and this country makes it far too easy to litigate. For example: Man sues Michael Jordan for looking too much like him (this is real!).


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