FMCSA Denies MBI Energy Services HOS ELD Exemption
When FMCSA published the rule mandating ELDs, it relied upon research indicating that the rule improves commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety and reduces the overall paperwork burden for both motor carriers and drivers by increasing the use of ELDs within the motor carrier industry, which will in turn, improve compliance with the HOS rules. The primary reason for denial of this exemption is that MBI did not demonstrate how, without using ELDs, they would maintain a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level achieved without the exemption.
Exemption Request from MBI
MBI is a provider of water management logistics and well-intervention services in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. The requested exemption would affect 65 MBI Energy Services drivers operating 42 single-cab vehicles classified in North Dakota as Special Mobile Equipment (SME). These vehicles meet the definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in 49 CFR 390.5 and therefore are subject to the ELD or AOBRD mandate. These specialized vehicles perform various work activities in an environment where connectivity is limited, working and road conditions are rough, and the necessity for driving on public roads is sporadic and incidental to the overall work being performed. The vehicles may sit on work locations for long periods of time, up to weeks or even months. These vehicles are typically oversize and overweight, requiring special permits for transport. Many States do not require registration, as they build the registration fees into the permit process.
Examples of SMEs meeting the definition of a CMV having a single cab include cranes, workover rigs, and swab units. Single cabs have reduced space for installing rough-terrain-capable AOBRDs or ELDs. The devices used must be capable of satellite communication where cell communication is poor to non-existent. The installation of rugged logging units, weighing more than typical units used in highway applications, would reduce driver visibility in an already large vehicle due to the limited space found in single-cab vehicles. Additionally, installation may require a unit being positioned over the driver's head, increasing the risk of the unit falling on the driver resulting in injury given the rough terrain upon which the vehicles travel or a vehicle accident involving the travelling public.
While these vehicles normally travel little, business demand may require MBI vehicles to move more often than 8 days in a 30-day period, the maximum frequency allowed by 49 CFR 395.8(a)(1)(iii)(A)(1) for the use of paper RODS instead of ELDs. According to MBI, the current regulations do not address circumstances where the vehicle's exemption status is sporadic in nature, thus requiring MBI to install an ELD to remain compliant during times not covered by the exemption. While alternatives exist to industrial-grade logging units, the alternatives usually involve cell phones or cell-capable tablets where the terrain or remote locations of work may inhibit logging device communication for extended periods of time. Many worksites prohibit cell phone usage due to safety concerns. Additionally, installations in special vehicles will increase costs substantially due to the unusual configurations of single cab vehicles requiring specialized wiring harnesses and custom installation kits. MBI requested a 5-year exemption.