FMCSA Denies Agricultural Retailers Association Request for HOS ELD Exemption

The FMCSA Decision

ARA applied for exemption from the ELD requirement on behalf of its members who are retailers and distributors of farm-related products and services. ARA members rely on CMVs to deliver their products and services to farms. ARA asserted that its members were not prepared to meet the December 18, 2017 deadline for complying with the ELD rule and sought to obtain postponement of the deadline.

FMCSA reviewed the application and the 117 comments submitted. On July 26, 2018, FMCSA denied the application. FMCSA was unable to determine from the application and the public comments whether operations under the requested exemption would provide a requisite level of safety.

Agricultural Retailers Association Request for ELD Exemption

The hours of service (HOS) rules (49 CFR part 395) prescribe the duty-time limits and rest requirements for interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), and provide various exceptions to the HOS rules for CMV drivers engaged in certain agricultural operations. Beginning December 18, 2017, most motor carriers and drivers of CMVs in interstate commerce will be required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs), not handwritten logbooks, to document their HOS duty status (49 CFR 395.8(a)(1)(i)). The HOS rules and the various agricultural exceptions will not change—only the manner of recording compliance with them.

ARA applies for exemption from the ELD requirement on behalf of its member retailers and distributors of farm-related products and services. ARA members rely on CMVs to deliver their products and services to farms. ARA does not estimate the number of drivers that would be exempt if its application would be granted.

ARA asserts that its members are not fully prepared to meet the December 18, 2017 deadline. It seeks exemption to obtain a postponement of the approaching deadline. ATA recommends that the time created by the postponement be used by FMCSA to correct what ARA perceives to be shortcomings of the ELD rule. ARA states that its members need additional information and guidance about the ELD rule, but also asserts that the ELD rule as currently constituted is unduly burdensome for its members. It asserts that ELD vendors and manufacturers do not offer ELD products that address the needs of ARA members. ARA explains that the ELD systems being offered do not accommodate the various exceptions from the HOS rules that agricultural drivers routinely employ. ARA also believes that FMCSA has complicated the search for quality ELDs by allowing ELD manufacturers to certify their products themselves; ARA believes the FMCSA should be certifying ELD devices.

ARA asserts that poor internet and cellular service in certain parts of the country calls the technological feasibility of ELDs in the agriculture industry into question. In addition, ARA is concerned that ELDs are vulnerable to both cybersecurity attack and illicit monitoring of the movements of member CMVs, some of which transport hazardous materials. ARA also asserts that ELDs contribute to driver distraction and thus negatively affect safety. A copy of ARA's application for exemption is available for review in the docket for this notice.

ARA states that its application will achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the proposed exemption.

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