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National Waste & Recycling Association Gets An ELD Exemption

The NWRA gets an exemption from ELDs that means two extra work hours per day.
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Daren Hansen - Sr. DOT Editor - J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

December 13 , 2019

The nearly 700 members of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) have been given a green light to allow their drivers to work an extra two hours per day and still use basic time records instead of tracking their hours of service using ELDs (elogs).

It’s an exemption that may soon apply to most short-haul drivers, but also one that carries risk. More on that later.

Change Is Significant for Eligible Drivers

Normally, drivers who stay within a 100-air-mile radius — like most drivers who collect trash and recycling — must be back to their home base and done working within 12 consecutive hours each day to avoid needing to complete a record of duty status (RODS), commonly known as a driver’s logbook. Doing so allows them to keep much simpler time records than the detailed logs required of most long-haul truck drivers. It also allows them to skip a daily 30-minute rest break.

Under the new exception, NWRA drivers can put in 14-hour workdays and remain exempt from logs. Even if logs are needed on occasion, drivers can use paper logs on up to 8 days out of any 30 consecutive days before needing to use an ELD.

To use the exception, the drivers have to carry a copy of the FMCSA’s exemption notice and be prepared to show it to enforcement officials.

Most Safety Regulations Still Apply

The NWRA exception is not a “get out of jail free” card. Importantly, eligible drivers:

  • Are prohibited from driving while fatigued, which can certainly become a factor after 12 hours on the clock
  • Must stop driving after reaching the 60- or 70-hour weekly limit, which is a real possibility with drivers who put in 12- or 14-hour days
  • And their employers remain subject to the rules for medical certification and driver qualification files, daily and annual vehicle inspections, and drug and alcohol testing, among other rules
  • Who end up needing to use logs more than 8 times in 30 days would have to switch to ELDs

All Local Drivers May Soon Have the Same Benefit

The NWRA exemption may soon apply to the millions of drivers who use the 100-air-mile provision in 49 CFR §395.1(e)(1). The FMCSA has proposed changing that rule to allow all drivers to be exempt from logs (and thus ELDs) if they stay within 150 air miles and are back home within 14 hours. The rule change could be finalized in early 2020.

One risk inherent in any easing of the hours-of-service limits is the urge to push drivers to use all available hours. Just as many short-haul drivers today remain on duty for their full daily allowance of 12 hours, many short-haul drivers in the future may push that to 14 hours. This may lead to an increase in fatigued driving and an increase in the need for ELDs by drivers who can no longer meet the terms of the 100-air-mile exception.

Using Any Exception Carries Risk

Hours of service exceptions are meant to be used, but they must be used properly to avoid fines and reduce legal liability. It’s not uncommon for motor carriers or their drivers to get in trouble for thinking they’re exempt from more rules than they really are, or for not knowing what to do when an exception no longer applies.

Carriers that decide to use an hours-of-service exception must be certain their drivers know:

  • To whom the exception applies,
  • Which hours-of-service limits apply when using the exception,
  • Which documentation is required,
  • What to do if the exception no longer applies, and
  • How to discuss the exception with enforcement personnel.

Misuse Is Common

There are many ways to be exempt from one or more requirements in the federal hours-of-service rules, but there are just as many ways to misuse an exception, add unnecessary risk to your operations, and — when it comes to ELDs —miss out on the benefits that new technology can provide.

Before you take advantage of an exception, make sure it applies and that you know how to use it properly. Just as importantly, consider the impact the exception will have on your operations, safety, and the bottom line before putting it to use.

Don’t Rush to Pull Your ELDs

Even if the FMCSA’s proposed rule change goes through, there are many reasons local carriers — including waste management companies — should keep their ELDs. It good business to manage productivity, know where your vehicles are, and know how safely they’re being operated.  Advantages of ELDs that short-haul operations should consider include:

  • Cost savings and reduced risk from being able to monitor and coach drivers based on ELD telematics (fuel efficiency, speeding, hours on task, hard braking, etc.).
  • Dispatch flexibility. When all drivers are using ELDs, they are all eligible to exceed the terms of the short-haul exception when needed. Carriers without such flexibility may have trouble finding available drivers on short notice, and drivers may face the hassle of needing to retroactively record their day on standard logs.
  • Easier time recording. Accurate time records must be kept for short-haul drivers, and certain hours-of-service restriction still apply. ELDs can help capture drivers’ hours accurately and alert them when a limit is reached. They can also instantly convert a short-haul time record into a standard log when needed.
  • IFTA/IRP reporting can be automated with ELDs provided the device is obtaining the GPS position frequently enough, saving labor and increasing accuracy over manual tracking.
  • Asset management and customer service can be enhanced through GPS tracking of vehicles. Tracking can help find more efficient routes and provide useful data on detention time.
  • Having one system for all drivers. It can be an administrative nightmare to manage a pool of drivers who all use different timekeeping methods. Having all drivers on ELDs can make hours-of-service administration much easier.

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