Are You Exempt from ELDs?

There's one question our editors receive more than any other , “Am I required to use an ELD?”

Published On: 09/19/2019
Semi trucks on country highway
J. J. Keller Senior Editor Daren Hansen

Written by:

Daren Hansen

Sr. Transportation Safety Editor — J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

The exemptions listed below in this article originally published in 2017 has been reviewed and updated as of September 12, 2019.

As a transportation safety expert, I answer over 200 regulation questions every month on topics ranging from driver qualification to cargo securement. If there was one question I received more often than any other, it was this: “Am I required to use an ELD?”

Even now drivers, supervisors, safety directors, and others are still asking that same basic question, and for good reason. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and state enforcement agencies continue to move the goalposts, granting new exemptions, clarifying what the rules mean, and changing how enforcement is handled.

This means the answer to that simple question isn’t an easy one.

With that in mind, let’s review the many variables and exceptions that can affect whether an individual driver needs to use an ELD. Note that I said “driver” and not “vehicle,” because the mandate rules, in general, are driver-focused and not vehicle-focused. Any driver who needs to use an ELD must use one in every commercial vehicle he/she operates, with some limited exceptions.

The following are based on federal (interstate) standards; your state’s requirements may vary if you only operate in intrastate commerce.

Current ELD Exemptions

  • If you qualify for an exemption from the federal hours-of-service rules, then you will continue to be exempt and will not need to use ELDs. These exemptions are found in sections 390.3(f), 390.23, 390.39, 395.1(k), 395.1(s), 395.1(n), 395.1(r), and 395.1(x).
  • If you are using a “grandfathered” automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) that complies with section 395.15 and that was installed and in use before December 18, 2017, you can continue to use that AOBRD until it needs to be replaced or until December 16, 2019, whichever comes first (see 395.8(a)(1)(ii)).
  • If your vehicle registration indicates that it’s from a model year before 2000, the vehicle does not need to have an ELD (see 395.8(a)(1)(iii)(A)(4)). This also applies to engines from a pre-2000 model year even if the vehicle registration is newer (e.g., if a glider kit was installed).
  • If you have not already been required to use a regular grid-type log on more than 7 days out of the last 29 consecutive days, then you are eligible to use a handwritten paper (or digital) log today, instead of an ELD (see 395.8(a)(1)(iii)(A)(1)). In other words, if you only need to use a regular log on 8 or fewer days out of any rolling 30 consecutive days, then you may use standard paper or digital logs on those (up to 8) days. Once you need to log a 9th day out of any 30 days, then an ELD is required starting on that 9th day.
  • On any day when you comply with the terms of the 100- or 150-air-mile exception in 395.1(e), you may use a basic time record instead of an ELD. This is true even if you normally have to use an ELD, i.e., drivers who use ELDs can still claim a short-haul exception whenever it applies.
  • If you are engaged in a “driveaway-towaway operation” as defined in section 390.5 and are delivering the vehicle being driven, or if you are transporting an RV trailer or motor home as part of a driveaway-towaway operation, then you are exempt from needing an ELD (see 395.8(a)(1)(iii)(A)(2)-(3))
  • If your vehicle is operating under a rental agreement with a term of 8 days or less, you do not need an ELD in that vehicle as long as you are carrying the rental agreement and a copy of the FMCSA exemption notice published on October 11, 2017. You are eligible to use paper logs during the term of the rental.
  • If you transport livestock or insects, then you do not need to use an ELD based on a statutory exemption enacted by Congress. The FMCSA says this exemption “will remain in place until further notice,” but it could be rescinded in the future.

Be aware that numerous organizations have requested additional exemptions, so the situation is fluid and may change at any time.

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The Encompass® ELD app makes compliance with hours of service easier for your drivers, mechanics, and other employees with exempt driving rulesets and quick ELog annotation entry to document exceptions that impact their record of duty status. Talk with a compliance specialist today about the Encompass® ELD app. Learn more.

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