PHOTO: JJ Keller -

PHOTO: JJ Keller

The mandate to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) was published late in 2015, leaving many companies wondering if they are subject to the rulemaking. Specifically, questions have poured into J. J. Keller & Associates asking about potential exceptions. The majority of the questions have come from companies that haul their own freight or equipment, operate smaller trucks, and/or travel short distances.

General Applicability

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), any carriers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as defined in Section 390.5 in interstate commerce — and whose drivers are currently required to complete a log (i.e., record of duty status) — may be required to invest in ELD technology. This definition of a CMV encompasses a wide array of vehicle types, including tractor-trailers, buses, certain pickup trucks, straight trucks, and so on. Small fleets — including one-truck operations — are subject to the mandate.

The definition of a CMV does not distinguish between those hauling freight on behalf of others and those transporting their own product or equipment. In addition, the FMCSRs do not look at who owns the vehicle. If you rent or lease a truck that is operated under your authority, you must ensure it is equipped with an ELD.

Grandfathered Vehicles

Let’s begin with the truck itself. The rule requires the tethering of the ELD system to the vehicle’s electronic control module (ECM) to automatically gather engine-use data. Vehicles manufactured before model-year 2000 were not necessarily equipped with ECMs so they are exempt from the ELD requirement. The model year is identified by the 10th position in the vehicle identification number (VIN). Motor carriers are allowed — but not required — to equip these older vehicles with ELDs.

Grandfathered Devices

There is a grace period for companies that install a compliant, automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) on their vehicles by December 18, 2017. The carriers may continue using these AOBRDs until December 16, 2019. After that date, carriers are instructed to install or upgrade to an ELD that meets the rule’s specifications. Failure to do so is a violation of the FMCSRs.

Exemptions for Specific Operations

Non-business, private motor carriers of passengers, utility service vehicles, and certain agricultural operations are not subject to the mandate because their drivers are currently exempt from the logging requirements.

Driveaway/towaway operations — in which the vehicle being driven is part of the shipment being delivered — are exempt from the ELD requirements. The transportation of recreational vehicle trailers in a driveaway/towaway capacity is also not subject to the mandate.

Occasional Use of Paper Logs

Drivers that do not use a paper log every day may be exempt from ELDs, providing certain criteria are met. This provision would apply to a motor carrier’s intermittent or occasional drivers, as well as anyone claiming a short-haul exception (100- or 150-air-mile radius exception).

To use this ELD exemption, the driver is only allowed to log up to 8 days within any 30-consecutive-day period. When a driver is required to complete a log within those eight days, a paper log is acceptable rather than using an ELD. But, if he or she needs to log on nine or more days, the driver must switch to an ELD.  

About the Author

Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. For more information or questions, e-mail