FMCSA Denies Power and Communication Contractors Association Request to Use Paper RODS versus ELD

The FMCSA Decision

The PCCA requested that motor carriers and drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the power and communication construction industry be allowed to use paper records of duty status (RODS) instead of ELDs. PCCA noted that construction contractors spend considerable time off-road on varying jobsites; a single CMV may have several different drivers over the course of a day, moving the vehicle short distances around the jobsite. Due to the limited time that their drivers spend driving on public roads within a workday, PCCA states that the ELD and RODS requirements for drivers in its industries do not result in a significant safety benefit.

FMCSA reviewed the application and the 259 public comments submitted. On June 16, 2018, FMCSA denied PCCA's application for exemption because the Agency could not ensure that the exemption would provide the requisite level of safety.

Power and Communication Contractors Association Request for ELD Exemption

The PCCA represents contractors, manufacturers, and distributors who build and repair America's power and communications infrastructure, including electric transmission, distribution, and substation facilities and broadband, telephone, and cable television systems. PCCA members also engage in directional drilling, local area and premises wiring, and improvements to water and sewer infrastructure, as well as gas and oil pipelines. While PCCA is not aware of a confirmed, finite number of drivers in the power and communication construction industry, they believe there are tens of thousands of them across the U.S. These are construction workers—driving is incidental to their core job function.

PCCA contractors maintain a wide range of different vehicles, including dump trucks, water-related vehicles, skid trucks, and flatbeds used to carry heavy excavation equipment. Buses are also used to transport workers to and from a construction jobsite.

The exemption would apply to drivers in the power and communications construction industry, who operate under significantly different circumstances than interstate truck drivers. CMV operators working on broadband and/or electric infrastructure projects commonly drive multiple vehicles for short distances within a single day, and a single vehicle is often driven by multiple drivers.

Numerous exemptions to the ELD and RODS requirements are available depending on varying job functions, including for those operating 8 days in 30-day period, short haul 100 air-mile rule, 150 air-mile rule, utility service vehicle (USV) exemption, ready mix trucks, pipeline welders, etc. The complexity of navigating the ELD and RODS requirements and exemptions make compliance difficult, exposing their drivers to unknowing violations. According to PCCA, application of these requirements to their drivers is confusing even for law enforcement officials. When contrasted against the requirements' minimal benefit to the safety of their drivers, application of the ELD and RODS requirements to their construction personnel proves to be quite unnecessary.

Drivers in the power and communication construction industry commonly operate under the USV exemption as defined under § 395.2 of FMCSRs, which exempts drivers of a USV “used in the furtherance of repairing, maintaining, or operating any structures or any other physical facilities necessary for the delivery of public utility services, including the furnishing of electric, gas, water, sanitary sewer, telephone, and television cable or community antenna service.” Requiring installation of ELD technology in USVs operated in an industry that is normally exempt from HOS requirements because of the critical nature of its work presents an unnecessary burden.

PCCA's application requests an exemption from requirements to use ELDs in lieu of written logs to document their RODS under 49 CFR 395.8(a). The exemption they are requesting would be limited to their drivers: (1) Who are on duty no more than 14 hours per day; (2) Who drive less than 200 miles per day, regardless of start and stop location; and (3) For whom the driving of CMVs is incidental to their core employment.

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