Logging in the ELD environment: Annotations/notes section is driver’s friend when ‘weird situations’ arise, FMCSA says

| August 16, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Office of Enforcement and Compliance Director Joe DeLorenzo spelled out what he sees as a key point in many of the multitude of scenarios he’s presented with where exemption from the agency’s electronic logging device mandate is questioned. Where there’s a question about an exemption — such as in the case of agricultural operations — or use of special driving categories like yard moves or personal conveyance, annotating the logs with notes about particular statuses will be key for drivers as ELDs come into play.

In “any weird situation,” he said, “annotate it in the driver’s record [so that the situation] would be clear if somebody asked you for it.”

Depending on what the situation is, it may not avoid a violation, but a clear record will make the roadside process proceed with least friction — and give drivers/carriers the best chance of defending themselves in the case of audits/future inspections.

Personal conveyance
DeLorenzo spoke Wednesday at TMW Systems/PeopleNet’s user conference in Nashville, Tenn., in a morning session the final day of the conference. About the “personal conveyance” allowance in the hours of service rule, he urged drivers to use it in the ELD environment like they might today with paper. In ELDs, personal conveyance will be a special driving category that allows vehicle movement under an off-duty status.

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However, he did emphasize that personal conveyance should be properly understood as truly personal use of the vehicle. Traveling to and from shipping/receiving locations, for instance, isn’t the place to use it, though compliance consultants have argued otherwise, particularly for self-dispatched or independent owner-operators. Presented with a circumstance of an exceedingly lengthy delay at the shipper or receiver that causes the driver’s 14-hour clock to run out, DeLorenzo said proceeding to a safe haven/parking location/truck stop would not be considered personal conveyance.

Rather, he urged drivers to make the trip, annotate the circumstances accordingly, again “in case somebody asks for it,” and thus avoid charges of a “false log” for incorrect personal conveyance use.

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Yard moves
At the same time, during his talk DeLorenzo clarified a point about the other special driving category specified in the ELD rule: yard move. Utilizing this category will move a driver to the on-duty not-driving status though the vehicle is in motion. Just where it can be used hasn’t been fully understood to date through the industry. DeLorenzo said locations like fleet terminals aren’t the only places where it’s OK to use, but also within facilities away from public roads like ports, railyards, customer locations and the like. At distances of no more than 3-5 miles, DeLorenzo said, “it’s OK. If it starts to accumulate more than that, people are going to start asking questions.”

The FMCSA has worked with at least one carrier on the question of whether auto-assigning yard moves within a geofenced area around a terminal would be allowed. DeLorenzo emphasized again that such would be permissible as long as it’s “within a reasonable distance.”

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Yard moves, after being categorized by the driver, or registered automatically in a geofenced area, must be signed off on by the administrator — in the case of an independent owner-operator, that makes use of the yard move a two-step process he/she will attend to on his/her own.

The agricultural exemption
For those running under the agricultural exemption to the hours of service but also running commercially at other times or far enough (beyond 150 miles) to require keeping hours and utilizing an ELD, DeLorenzo noted there were a variety of ways some ELD vendors were dealing with that particular exemption. At once, he said, annotations to the driver’s record during the exempt times would be enough for roadside enforcement to ensure compliance.

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