Since the ELD mandate was first published in 2015, different types of carriers worked toward a series of deadlines. Meanwhile, the industry lobbied for exemptions for small carriers, owner-operators, and other groups. 

Today, the ELD mandate is in full effect. All non-exempt commercial drivers must use FMCSA-registered electronic logging devices (also known as electronic logbooks or e-logs) to record their hours-of-service and duty status information. If a non-exempt driver lacks an approved ELD or is found to be falsifying logs, they can be placed out of service for at least 10 hours. In total, 22 different ELD-related violations can reduce drivers’ CSA scores.

However, that “non-exempt” is important. After much negotiation, several exemptions to the ELD mandate are now on the books. These exemptions primarily affect small carriers and owner-operators making short hauls, but they also hinge on vehicle size and purpose.

Many small fleets that don’t need to fully comply with the ELD mandate still must track driver hours and other data. ELDs and fleet management solutions can help these fleets comply while reducing some of the administrative burden.

ELD rules and regulations

The ELD mandate requires carriers to use an ELD to electronically record each driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS). The requirement eliminates the paper logbooks previously used to comply with FMCSA’s hours-of-service (HOS) rules. An ELD tracks each driver’s HOS in real time, along with location, date, vehicle miles, engine hours, and other data. 

During roadside inspections, drivers must prove they’re using an ELD that complies with FMCSA regulations. They must also show recent driver logs to prove HOS compliance. 

In general, the ELD mandate applies to commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce with engines manufactured after the 2000 model year. That includes about 3.4 million drivers and 3 million to 4 million vehicles that meet at least one of these criteria:

  • Weigh more than 10,001 pounds
  • Transport hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards
  • Transport nine or more passengers for compensation
  • Transport 16 or more passengers (not for compensation)

Overall, drivers who do not have to maintain RODS or are involved in driveway-towaway operations do not need to comply with the ELD mandate. 

ELD exemptions for small carriers

Congress briefly considered the Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2019 to exempt owner-operators and carriers with 10 or fewer trucks. Since the bill never made it out of committee, small carriers and owner-operators must follow the same rules as larger fleets.

Even so, small carriers should be aware of the ELD exemptions for short-haul carriers. 

What defines a “short-haul carrier” 

Short-haul carriers do indeed have some exemptions. The “short-haul” exemption applies to vehicles and drivers who operate within a 150-air-mile radius of their work reporting location (172.6 land miles). Short-haul drivers are limited to 14 consecutive hours on duty.

Drivers who complete eight or fewer long-haul jobs per 30-day period are also exempt from the ELD mandate, though they must comply with RODS requirements and log their hours, whether manually or via an AOBRD. 

Electronic logs for small carriers 

Small carriers often have a lot to gain from ELDs, even if they aren’t mandated to use them. After all, many drivers still must track their RODS and HOS in some format, even if it’s on paper. 

Paper logs are prone to problems. Drivers may forget to record their entries or misplace the paper logs. And then it’s up to an administrative person to reconcile paper logs with schedules, receipts, and other records — sometimes weeks after the fact. 

Many small-carrier and owner-operator drivers find ELDs can help with their tracking. In general, ELDs help drivers focus on driving rather than paperwork. 

Small carriers juggling multiple drivers and routes can benefit from a more robust fleet management solution that includes an ELD. For example, Motive’s fleet management solution includes a dashboard that makes it easy for fleet managers to view each driver’s log to identify gaps, ensuring each logbook is complete and accurate. 

Plus, Motive’s electronic logbooks help drivers ace roadside inspections by ensuring they’re organized with all the information they need. Motive’s ELD can also alert drivers before they reach their HOS limit, giving them time to find a spot to safely park — and avoid violations.

The Motive Compliance Hub can reduce a fleet’s time spent on ELD and HOS compliance by up to 50% while helping reduce HOS violations by up to 50%. Together, the Compliance Hub and Fleet App can help fleet managers:

  • View driver logs and on-the-go duty status
  • Resolve form and manner errors 
  • Spot vehicle and asset defects in inspection reports 
  • Minimize violations by alerting drivers and managers before they occur
  • Identify which drivers need coaching to reduce their CSA scores
  • Gain visibility into trends over time, such as types of violations and driver behavior
  • Reduce the costs of violations 

ELD exemptions for owner-operators

Any owner-operator who must maintain RODS and HOS records must also comply with the ELD mandate if their vehicle’s engine was manufactured after the 2000 model year. The same short-haul exemptions apply to owner-operators.

Electronic logs for owner-operators

The smallest carriers are those run by owner-operators — yet they must maintain the same records as much larger operators. Owner-operators can find ELDs especially helpful, as they provide a consistent, easy way to track driving time. The Motive Driver App makes it especially simple by allowing drivers to keep time off their logs when allowed by FMCSA rules, such as during yard moves or personal conveyance. This helps drivers ensure they don’t exceed HOS limits while performing permitted activities. 

Record hours of service with the Motive Driver App

The Motive Driver App provides an easy, intuitive way for small carriers and owner-operators to electronically log their driving, even if they’re exempt from the ELD mandate. Through the Motive Driver App, you can ensure you have a complete, accurate record that’s ready for your next roadside inspection

For example, the Motive Driver App automatically prompts drivers to update any unsigned logs and unidentified driving events. And you can even insert a past duty status if you forget to do so.

Motive also keeps track of evolving regulations to help you stay compliant. When the FMCSA changed the HOS rules in 2020, Motive quickly pushed updates to the Motive Driver App.

Download the Motive Driver App now for Android or iPhone to get started. 

Need a complete ELD solution?

Whether you need an e-log for your owner-operator vehicle or a full ELD solution, Motive has an answer. Learn how we can help with ELD compliance and request a demo to talk through the best option for your needs.