When it comes to compliance, Hours of Service regulations and changes handed down by the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are critically important to understand for any business. While the nuances of these regulations can be complex at times, one of the things we aim to do here at Whip Around is to help customers and our audience clearly understand what these regulations mean to their businesses.
In this post, we’ll be breaking down changes to the short-haul exemption specifically (included in the HOS final rule that went into effect as of September 29, 2020) and how it could potentially impact your organization.
A Basic Overview of Hours of Service, the ELD Mandate, and Exemptions
As a result of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule made by the FMCSA in 2015, several Hours of Service (HOS) changes have been made in response as carriers adopt this technology. For the short haul exception component, these change affect the allowable driving window, as well as how many air miles commercial motor vehicles that operate short-haul routes are permitted to travel each day.
The FMCSA has adjusted its existing Hours of Service regulations to offer more flexibility and added clarity for drivers in a few different areas: The short-haul exception, the 30-minute break requirement, adverse driving conditions, and a modification to the sleeper berth provision.
All of these HOS changes are crucial for all drivers to be aware of (even ones already subject to the ELD mandate), and can be viewed directly on the FMCSA’s hours of service page here.
Why the Short-Haul Exemption Matters for Many Drivers
One of the effects of the ELD mandate was its ability for companies to increase compliance to the existing Hours of Service provisions in place by installing an electronic logging device (ELD).
These devices are obviously important in keeping record of duty status (RODS), as opposed to timecards, but may not be necessary just yet for some carriers not focused on long-haul routes.
A driver may qualify for the short haul exception as long as these conditions are met:
- A property-carrying commercial motor vehicle driver has at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty between each 14-hour on-duty period
- A passenger-carrying CMV driver has at least 8 consecutive hours off duty between each 14-hour on-duty period
- The driver (except a driver-salesperson) returns to the work reporting location and is released within 14 consecutive hours
- The driver operates within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work location
- The employer retains records indicating: number of hours, time released, total time for the preceding 7 days, and the time each driver reports for duty
More comprehensive details on what’s required to qualify for this short-haul exemption can be found in the Electronic Code of Regulations here.
If your organization is one that may fall under this short haul exemption, here are 4 major impacts and realities to be aware of:
1. Increased Number of Air Miles Allowed
This ruling by the FMCSA expands the short haul exception from 100 air miles to 150 air miles. This is particularly important for organizations who may wish to operate across state lines or within proximity to major cities that previously would require ELD adoption.
A Real-World Example
Let’s take a look at a simple example. Under the prior short-haul ruling, a short-haul driver based out of Charlotte North Carolina, could service Greensboro, NC since it falls within 100-air miles of Charlotte. However, the driver could not service Raleigh, NC since it is roughly 130 air miles from Charlotte and is outside of this range.
Under the new short-haul ruling, the company could potentially expand their business by servicing the Raleigh area in addition to Augusta, GA, Ashville, NC, and Johnson City, TN, since these cities all fall within 150 air miles of the driver’s starting location.
2. Increased Maximum Duty Period Allowed
Another change as a result of the short haul exemption is allowing drivers to extend their maximum working hours from 12 to 14 hours. While a driver can’t drive more than 11 hours, this offers a larger window of time to return to the work reporting location, and be released from work within that 14 hours.
The new HOS ruling also includes a provision for adverse driving conditions, extending the driving window an additional 2 hours in these cases.
3. Mandatory ELD Installation Implications
While ELDs obviously are required by law and you definitely don’t want to risk being fined up to $26,126 per vehicle, many of the hard-wired telematics solutions containing ELD functionality may not be needed right away assuming your organization meets short-haul exemption.
Do motor carriers subject to the short-haul exemption still need an ELD?
Not technically. While there are app-based solutions on the market, regional businesses that may still be using timecards are not required to keep RODS with an ELD if they fall under this exemption.
However, it’s always a best practice to implement an electronic system, in the event that your business changes in any way that would cause your organization to not be subject to the short haul exemption.
Since there are nuances short-haul carriers face (like regional traffic or construction) that long-haul carriers typically don’t deal with as often, this exemption eases the burden of keeping a digital driving record, since fatigue is less likely to be a problem for these regional carriers.
4. DVIRs and Technology Should Still Not Be Overlooked
While your company’s routes may be able to be expanded a bit under this provision, one area you don’t want to overlook is the necessity of a digital inspection solution like Whip Around that allows owners, managers, and mechanics to know what’s going on with any vehicle or driver at any time.
A digital DVIR solution is one of the easiest ways to get started using inspections and maintenance-related data to your advantage in order to make smarter decisions over time.
Since DVIRs are required for pre-and post-trip inspections, a simple solutions that isn’t difficult to set up or install is a smart step to take, even if you don’t plan on switching to an ELD right away.
Preparing for the Future
Not only will the FMCSA continually adapt to the ever changing world all motor carriers find themselves in, but so will your organization in order to survive. Fleet and driver safety are always top of mind, and expect a continued shift away from paper-based processes and clunky and ineffective eDVIR solutions in the future.
Here at Whip Around, we give owners peace of mind to what’s actually going on with their fleet of vehicles, and make the transition away from paper easier than you may think.
“The real value to the company is that it’s helping the drivers and helping us with compliance when it comes to federal law. Expedited trucking is enhanced by expedited inspections and expedited maintenance, which are advantages Whip Around brings to the table.” –David Voronin, President and CEO at Migway.