FMCSA Allows the Motion Picture Association of America to Use Paper RODs Instead of ELDs
The FMCSA Decision
FMCSA grants the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) a five-year exemption from the electronic logging device (ELD) requirements for all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers providing transportation to or from a theatrical or television motion picture production site. MPAA requested this exemption to allow these drivers to complete paper records of duty status (RODS) instead of using an ELD device. FMCSA has determined that the unique aspects of these drivers' operations, combined with additional oversight of their paper RODS, is equivalent to that which would result from the use of ELDs for their particular operations, and therefore provides an equivalent level of safety.
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Request for Exemption
MPAA requested an exemption from the final rule on ELD requirements published in the Federal Register on December 16, 2015 (80 FR 78292). The exemption would allow all drivers of CMVs providing transportation of passengers and property to and from a theatrical or television motion picture production site to complete paper RODS instead of using an ELD device on or after December 18, 2017, the compliance date for the ELD rule. The term of the requested exemption is five years, subject to renewal.
MPAA reported that approximately 6,500 CMV drivers operate CMVs on a full- or part-time basis for the motion picture industry. According to HOS data developed by third party compliance services, these drivers spend on average less than four hours each day driving and drive about 40 miles per day. Their resulting RODs are often very complex, as are the driver HOS records that employing motor carriers must keep. Through close cooperation, the industry has been able to manage the extensive interchange of paper RODs that this work pattern requires. MPAA asserted that industry's success in HOS management is based on a system that is driver-based rather than vehicle-based.
According to MPAA, few production drivers qualify for the short-haul driver exception in 49 CFR 395.1(e)(1)(ii)(A) because they often exceed the 12-hour limit and therefore may be subject to the ELD requirements. Each time a production driver operates a CMV for a different studio or production company, the motor carrier and the driver must reconcile the driver's HOS record for the past week. At present, cooperation between production companies, various Teamsters locals, and drivers can reduce the burden of this detailed reconciliation. And under the current rules, drivers themselves can manage the necessary paper RODS, carry them to each new CMV, and transfer paper copies to each new motor carrier as needed. When a roadside inspection occurs, a driver can produce paper RODS for review by the enforcement official.
MPAA contends that the lack of interoperability among ELD platforms developed by various manufacturers means that motion picture company drivers will not be able to transfer HOS data from one carrier to other carriers.
MPAA states  that the motion picture industry (MPI):
“. . . has developed a comprehensive database that contains HOS data, making it easier for motor carriers to keep track of drivers' cumulative HOS and prevent HOS violations from occurring, all while protecting the confidentiality of each motor carrier's private records. This is true even when the driver has worked for a separate USDOT# within the MPI within the prior 7-day period or same 24-hour period. This same level of safety, compliance, and visibility to the driver's hours of service is impossible in the current ELD landscape.
“Current regulatory requirements designate that drivers submit logs within 13 days of the 24-hour period to which the record pertains. 49 CFR 395.8(a)(2)(ii). MPAA Member companies go above and beyond by requiring drivers to submit RODS within 24 hours of the duty period to which the record pertains, which is a 12-day reduction in the timeframe otherwise required.”
“The RODS are then reviewed by third-party auditing companies, resulting in accelerated reporting of HOS compliance and an independent assessment of accuracy. This allows any concerns that may be discovered in the review to be expeditiously addressed by the employing motor carrier that is ultimately responsible for enforcement of the regulations. Member companies' current practices include reviewing driver payroll records and other supporting documentation such as fuel receipts, inspection reports, vehicle records and receipts, expense receipts, schedules, bill of lading, etc. to verify the accuracy of the paper logs” [emphasis in original].
A copy of MPAA's application for exemption is available for review in the docket for this notice.
The exemption is applicable from January 19, 2018 and expires January 19, 2023.