The 6 ELD Exemptions: Do You Need Electronic Logging Devices?

eld exemptions

In 2021, the ELD Mandate is in full effect (a pandemic can't stop the law!), but does your fleet need to adhere to it, or is it exempt? Let's find out.

Hearing about new governmental mandates for business fleets can feel like watching someone hit a wasp's nest with a baseball bat. There was peace and then there was chaos – and now you're hurrying to get some protective measures in place before the bugs come to sting you.

Thankfully, the ELD Mandate feels like more of a natural step forward – one that's likely to save you money and time in the long-run – than an unnecessary hassle. That said, it doesn't actually apply to everyone: there are some (not many, but some) fleet managers and self-employed drivers who just don't have to worry about it.

Are you among them? Read on as we explain the six ELD exemptions set out by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).

What is ELD Exempt?

According to the FMCSA, a vehicle could be exempt from the ELD Mandate if: It forms part of a towaway shipment; its engine was manufactured before 2000; it doesn't already require RODS; it doesn't require RODS for more than eight days out of 30; it's used for short-haul journeys; or it's an agricultural vehicle.

Of course, it's impossible to understand the nuances of these ELD exemptions without taking a closer look at them. Read on for a run-down of these rules…

The 6 ELD Exemptions (Electronic Logging Device Exemptions) Are:

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1. The Driveaway-Towaway Exemption

This ELD exemption from the FMCSA is a simple one. It applies to towaway drivers/fleets that transport empty vehicles that are intended for sale, lease, or repair.

If the vehicle being driven to transport these other vehicles is part of the shipment – that is, it's also intended for sale, lease, or repair – then it doesn't need to be fitted with an ELD.

After all, the driver/fleet manager doesn't own the vehicle, and will only be using it temporarily, as part of this one shipment.

In summary:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… It's part of a drive-away-towaway shipment.

All those acronyms starting to get confusing? Jump down to our easy-to-understand glossary to brush up on your terminology.

2. The Pre-2000 Exemption

Put simply, the FMCSA states that if a vehicle’s engine was manufactured before the year 2000, that vehicle does not need to be fitted with an ELD.

Why 2000? Well, most vehicles that were manufactured before 1999 aren't equipped with an engine control module (ECM), which ELDs need to function. It's important to note that this ELD exception does not apply to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – rather, it applies to the engine model year.

Because of this, you can qualify for an exemption by using a glider kit. This consists of a new cab and chassis with an older engine (read: an older engine model year) and vehicle components.

The flipside of this is that, if you own an older, pre-2000 vehicle that has a newer engine switched in, your vehicle will mostly likely not be exempt, and you'll need to fit it with an ELD.

In fewer words:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… Its engine model year is older than 2000.

3. The RODS Exemption

It's simple, really: drivers/fleets that aren't required to keep RODS (records of duty status) are also not required to use ELDs.

In other words, the rules that tell you whether to keep RODS or not haven't changed. What has changed is simply the tool you need to use to keep those records – instead of paper, it's now ELDs. Thus, if you've never needed to keep RODS, you don't need ELDs.

Put simply:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… You don't need to keep RODS for it.

Did You Know?

The easiest way to become compliant with the ELD Mandate is to install an ELD-compliant fleet management system. Encompassing electronic logging devices alongside vehicle tracking devices and analytics software, these solutions are necessary if you want to run an efficient, productive fleet – with minimal fuel costs.

Why? Well, alongside recording engine data and driver activity with ELDs, the best fleet management systems can also track the real-time locations of all your vehicles, send you live alerts that keep you on top of what's happening on the road, and monitor a whole host of data – including vehicle diagnostics, driver behavior, fuel usage, route efficiency, and loads more – to help you keep costs and downtime down, and productivity and revenue up!

If you'd like some help in finding the right ELD-compliant fleet management system for you, we're here! Just tell us a little about your fleet, starting by answering our question in the box below, and we'll match you up with the best system suppliers for your needs. They'll then be in touch with no-obligation quotes, tailored to you. It's the easiest way to compare the best options for your fleet – oh, and it's free!

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4. The 8-Day Exemption

There is another RODS-related exemption that's pretty similar to the above. Basically, drivers/fleets that maintain RODS for no more than eight days in a 30-day rolling period also do not need ELDs.

This includes drivers who generally make short-haul journeys (and so use the short-haul exemption) but occasionally take longer trips that require RODS. In the cases of these longer trips, paper RODS are still enough and ELDs aren't necessary.

Remember, though, that if one of these drivers spends more than eight days making RODS-requiring trips in a 30-day period, they'll need to use an ELD for the rest of that 30-day cycle.

Let's summarize:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… You don't keep RODS for it for more than eight days in a 30-day rolling period.

5. The Short-Haul Exemption (AKA the 100 Air Miles Exemption)

Short-haul, interstate drivers/fleets that operate within either 100 or 150 air miles of their work HQ could be exempt from using ELDs. To qualify for this exemption, though, they've got to meet a set of criteria from the FMCSA:

CDL (commercial drivers license) drivers must:

  • Always carry out journeys within a 100-mile radius of their work location
  • Never be on duty for longer than 12 hours in one go
  • Spend at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before going back on duty
  • Report back to work at the same location every day

Non-CDL drivers must:

  • Always carry out journeys within a 150-mile radius of their work location
  • Never drive through a state that requires a CDL for that particular vehicle
  • Not spend more than 14 hours on duty for 5 out of 7 consecutive days
  • Not spend more than 16 hours on duty for 2 out of 7 consecutive days
  • Report back to work at the same location every day

If a driver falls short of any one of these criteria, they'll need to fit their vehicle with an ELD (or use paper RODS, if fewer than eight days in a 30-day period are spent making these trips – see the eight-day exemption for more).

In short:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… It's used for short-haul trips that fit all of the above criteria.

6. The ELD Agricultural Exemption

Some vehicles that are used on farms are exempt from the ELD Mandate – i.e., those that are used by the farm's operator, employees, or family members to transport commodities such as machinery, livestock, or supplies.

As directed by the FMCSA, this exemption applies only to farm vehicles that complete journeys within a 150-air mile radius of their starting point. The number of pick-ups and drop-offs made along the way is irrelevant, so long as the vehicle doesn't stray beyond that radius.

To sum up:

Your vehicle is exempt from the ELD Mandate if… It's used to transport agricultural machinery, supplies, or livestock within a radius of 150 air miles.

What's Next?

In summary, the FMCSA directs that a vehicle could be exempt from the ELD Mandate if:

  • It forms part of a towaway shipment
  • Its engine was manufactured before 2000
  • It doesn't already require RODS
  • It doesn't require RODS for more than eight days out of 30
  • It's used for short-haul journeys, or…
  • It's an agricultural vehicle

Ultimately, though, whether your company is a small up-and-comer or a large mover and shaker, the full ELD Mandate applies to the vast majority of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

However, fleets that aren't covered by the mandate are still advised to adopt them because of their numerous benefits – including improved driver safety and increased efficiency (no more paper logs!), and the growth in profits and reduction in operational costs that can follow. In fact, studies have shown potential savings that round out to $705 per year, per vehicle. Just because you're exempt from the mandate, doesn't mean that you can't use ELDs anyway!

The ELD Mandate came into effect on December 16 2019. But if you're still looking to get compliant, the easiest way is to implement an ELD-compliant fleet management system – these can not only supply you with ELDs and the relevant software, but also make your life as a fleet manager much easier in a multitude of ways.

We can help you here. Simply answer a few questions about your fleet (don't forget to tell us you want ELDs!) and we'll match you up with awesome fleet management suppliers that can cater to your unique needs. They'll then be in touch with no-obligation quotes and info. It's quick, easy, and free! Get started by using the selector below to tell us where you are:

Glossary of terms

When reading up on ELDs and their exemptions, t's best to make sure you understand some key phrases and acronyms…

  • ELD: Electronic logging device. When installed in vehicles, these record engine data and driver activity, including hours of service (HOS) and RODS.
  • The ELD Mandate/Rule: The rule that states that all commercial motor vehicles – except for those that are exempt – must have been fitted with ELDs by 16 December 2019, though many fleets are still working towards this goal.
  • RODS: Records of duty status. Traditionally recorded on paper, now captured by ELDs, these are essentially logs of each driver's duty status throughout a 24-hour period.
  • FMCSA: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The government agency that put the ELD Mandate in place.
  • EOBR: Electric on-board recorder. A less-advanced version of an ELD, these were previously used to record duty status and driving hours, helping drivers and fleet managers to meet regulations. As of 16 December 2019, all EOBRs must be replaced with ELDs according to the ELD Mandate.


What are the ELD exemptions during coronavirus?

In light of the national emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FMCSA has announced exemptions to its usual rules for hours of service, driver qualification, and more. These exemptions apply only to carriers who are supporting coronavirus relief – for example, by transporting essential supplies (such as fuel or food), safety equipment (such as masks, gloves, and sanitizer), or medical supplies.

The new HOS rules dictate that, once a driver has completed a delivery, they must then spend a minimum of 10 hours off duty if they transport supplies/equipment, and eight hours if they transport passengers.

According to the FMCSA's FAQs on the matter: “Since the hours of service rules do not apply when operating under declaration of emergency issued under 49 CFR 390.23, you do not have to maintain a record of duty status (log). However, it is recommended that, for future reference, you explain the activity in the log “remarks” section without completing the detailed grid.”

Therefore, operations that fall under these exemptions, and that were previously using ELDs, are advised to continue to do so – but be careful to log the fact that they are working under the new exemptions.

Are there specific ELD exemptions for small companies?

The short answer is this: No. Whether your business operates two or 200 vehicles, those that do not fit any of the exemptions we've listed in this article must use ELDs. Sorry!

Interestingly, back in June 2018, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) filed for companies with 50 employees or fewer to be exempt from the ELD Mandate. However, the FMCSA denied the exemption, stating that the SBTC's argument didn't provide enough assurance that safety regulations would be complied with in the absence of ELDs.

Clearly, the FMCSA prioritizes safety above all else (it's in the name, after all,) which tells us that an ELD exemption for small companies is pretty unlikely to happen.

Do local drivers need ELDs?

Our answer to this question is similar to our answer above: As long as you do not fall under any of the exemptions we've listed in this article, you will need to use an ELD.

With that in mind, local drivers are likely to be short-haul drivers, which makes them likely candidates for the short-haul exemption (also known as the 100 air miles exemption).

This ELD exemption states that short-haul, interstate drivers who operate within either 100 or 150 air miles of their main office might be exempt – but they'll also need to meet the FMCSA's specific criteria, which we list up above.

Do non-CDL drivers need log books?

According to the FMCSA, if you're a non-CDL (commercial driver's licence) driver, you don't need to keep a log book (or use an ELD) if you fall under the short-haul exemption criteria for non-CDL drivers, which we list up above. Otherwise, you do need to keep a log book or use an ELD.

You can read more about the FMCSA's exemptions for non-CDL drivers in its interstate truck driver's guide to hours of service.

Written by:
Julia Watts Content Manager

Specialising in the complex realms of telephone systems, business energy, vehicle tracking, asset tracking, and fuel cards, Julia writes content that cuts through the noise to help you find the right solutions and technologies for your business. Having spent five years working across the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.