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EROADS and FMCSA present webinar aimed to clarify logging for personal conveyance, ag exemption

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Rules are rules, but for every rule there are exceptions, and that’s when things can get murky.

That’s certainly been the case ever since the ELD mandate went in to effect. Dec. 18, 2017, was just another day for those who’d been using ELDs for years. But for other drivers and carriers who want to operate within the regulations but hadn’t necessarily always been worried about the fine details, it was the start of an age of anxiety, knowing that every little move and non-move was on the record.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently tried to provide clarity to two areas of most concern and confusion: personal conveyance and the agricultural exemption, by providing their official definitions and some regulatory counsel for each.

But there are so many “what if” questions around both categories, not to mention many drivers with questions not only how to follow the regulations but to show they’ve been followed on the official log.

In order to clear the air a little more on these issues, ELD manufacturer EROADS conducted a webinar July 24, cohosted by Joe DeLorenzo, FMCSA’s director of enforcement and compliance, and Soona Lee, EROAD’s director of regulatory compliance, explaining how and when these rules apply and how to record them.

DeLorenzo opened by acknowledging that determining when driving can be considered personal conveyance can seem tricky.

The way to simplify it is to ask yourself two questions, he said: First, is the driver released from duty and second, is the driving for personal purposes only? There are several hard and firm rules within FMCSA guidelines about what definitely is and isn’t allowed, DeLorenzo said. But if you keep those two guidelines in mind, it starts to get clearer whether the personal conveyance rule applies or not.

“I think it’s important to talk about personal conveyance for what it really is,” DeLorenzo said. “It’s an off-duty status. That’s where the whole consideration of whether something is personal conveyance starts.”

The original personal conveyance guidance was written in 1998. Since then, a lot of people have come up with creative and convenient interpretations of the rules that may be well-intentioned but not strictly accurate.

Take commuting, DeLorenzo said, “This one can get people a little tripped up.”

Commuting between home and a terminal or work sites using a CMV is considered personal conveyance, he said. “Where this one gets trickier is where the driver is under dispatch when they leave the house,” DeLorenzo said.

If a driver loads up before going home anticipating he’ll hit the road first thing in the morning, or if the driver gets up and heads straight to a pick-up, that changes things because the driver is then “under the direction of a carrier.”

Another common question is when a driver stops at a rest stop for the night then wants to go get something to eat. That drive to the restaurant is personal conveyance. But if along the way you stop somewhere to fill up the gas tank, that would be considered work-related, so the trip would no longer qualify as personal conveyance.

“It’s the intent of the driving that matters,” DeLorenzo said. It doesn’t matter whether you’re laden, or even if you’re bobtailing. Are you off duty and is the movement strictly for personal reasons?

DeLorenzo illustrated his point using another common scenario. Suppose it takes longer than planned to load up and you’re running out of hours to find a safe, legal place to park. That extra time beyond your 14 hours that it will take find a place for the night would fall under personal conveyance. The same would be true if you stop somewhere and a law enforcement officer tells you that you have to move on.

“There’s no reason why your 10 hours should get broken up over that,” DeLorenzo said. “This is where you put an annotation in, you put a note in that says what happened and why.”

It doesn’t matter if looking for a place to stop happens to bring you a little closer to your destination, DeLorenzo said. But if you stretch that search out, skipping past rest stops in order to get a little further down the road, then it’s a problem.

The key to personal conveyance is documentation, Lee said. ELDs include a “personal conveyance” duty-status option. The thing to remember is whenever that status is engaged off-duty personal conveyance time will be noted and an explanation for the mileage must be entered into the log.

Another option, Lee said, is to remain logged out during the personal conveyance and, again, have that written explanation to account for the miles driven.

Keep in mind, she added, that carriers can establish their own limits about personal conveyance that are tighter than the actual regulation, so drivers need to know what their carrier’s rules are.

DeLorenzo joined Lee in stressing that personal conveyance time is off-duty time, but drivers must stick to the same safety standards they always drive by. And while there are no regulations about how much time a driver can spend on personal conveyance, it is important to use enough of those 10 hours of down time to get adequate rest.

The agricultural exemption makes the time a driver spends within a 150-air-mile radius of the source of an agricultural commodity exempt from counting toward Hours of Service.

Much of the uncertainty about this exemption has to do with definitions, DeLorenzo said. “A lot of people get confused over the term ‘agricultural commodity.”’

An agricultural commodity is any “nonprocessed food, feed, fiber or livestock,” DeLorenzo said. “Nonprocessed,” he added, means it can be packaged, but it has to still be in its original form.

“As long as it’s still a head of lettuce, it’s fine. If it’s in a bag of mixed greens, well, it’s not an agricultural commodity anymore.”

Another word that hangs up a lot of people is “source,” DeLorenzo said. The source can be an original source, like a farm or ranch, or an intermediate facility, such as a grain elevator or sale barn.

How the exemption works, DeLorenzo explained, is to put a circle with a radius of 150 miles around the source.  “If you’re operating within 150 air miles of the source, then the Hours of Service regulations do not apply.”

The clock stops the moment you enter the circle on your way to the source. Loading up, traveling to other stops to load or unload, then heading off to the drop-off location, none of that goes toward HOS.

The clock starts as soon as you leave the circle. If that destination is 300 miles away, you could cover half of that before the clock starts toward HOS, DeLorenzo explained.

DeLorenzo clarified a few points. If loading occurs at more than one site, the ag exemption radius for the entire job is based on the location of the first loading point. You can’t create a string of exempt zones.

If you drive out of the circle and the clock starts, then your route brings you back into the circle, then the clock stops again, DeLorenzo said. A trip could spend three hours inside the circle. Then you could drive outside the circle five hours, spend three at the destination, drive five hours on the return, reach the radius, then drive two hours more to get home.

That trip took 18 hours, but the first three hours and last two hours were within the 150-mile radius. Outside the radius, there were 10 hours driving, 13 hours total counting toward HOS, so it’s all good.

Obviously, it’s important to log the ag exemption properly, Lee said, and there are three options.

The first is to simply not log in until you reach the 150-mile radius. All the driving that had been done would show as “unidentified driving.” You then reject those unidentified miles and annotate that time was ag exempt, then begin normal recording.

Option two is to log in at the beginning then annotate the exempt and nonexempt time later, Lee said. “You could also use the personal conveyance option to separate that time you’re ag exempt. That’s kind of a tidy little option, just because it puts everything in the off-duty line.”

Lee and DeLorenzo noted that the key thing they wanted to get across is that a driver’s log doesn’t begin and end with the ELD.

“Everybody thinks there’s this magic thing that says, ‘hi, you’re in violation’ and spits out a ticket,” DeLorenzo said. “But what the law enforcement officer gets is your full ELD record including the annotations.

“The ELD device is not ultimately making the decision whether you’re compliant or not. That’s the law enforcement officer’s job, and they’re going to review those annotations.”

To watch the webinar in its entirety, click here.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Richard Carroll

    August 17, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Thank you for this information. I have forwarded it to some friends and they say thank you also. Everything was clear and simple to understand.

  2. Thomas A Goodman

    August 17, 2018 at 11:39 am

    great job made the water quite clear removed the mud I just hope the DOT reads this it is definitely a topic that comes up especially now that harvest is coming up

    Thank You
    Thomas A Goodman
    Triple B Trucking US DOT #2510996

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The Nation

Bill to prevent shutdown has benefits for USDOT

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The legislative deal passed to prevent a government shutdown contains $45.3 billion for highways honoring FAST Act funding levels for 2019, plus $3.25 billion in supplemental funding out of the general fund. (AASHTO Journal)

WASHINGTON — As part of bicameral legislative deal to prevent a second partial federal government shutdown while providing monies to build a wall along parts of the southern U.S. border, a total of $26.5 billion in discretionary funds and $60 billion from Highway and Airport and Airway Trust Funds will be provided to the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to an article in the Journal, a publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The legislative deal passed both the Senate and the House by wide margins.

This legislation also contains final funding for a series of fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills for nine federal departments and related agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Some of the USDOT appropriations measure include:

  • $45.3 billion for highways honoring FAST Act funding levels for 2019, plus $3.25 billion in supplemental funding out of the general fund.
  • Of that $3.25 billion in supplemental highway funding from the general fund, roughly $2.7 billion will be apportioned to the states as if it were Surface Transportation Block Grant Program funding, while $475 million will be for a Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement program.
  • $900 million for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development or BUILD discretionary grant program grants, divided evenly between rural and urban projects.
  • $2.55 billion for the Capital Investment Grant program, including $1.27 billion for “new starts,” $635 million for “core capacity” and $527 million for “small starts.”

“This legislation makes a significant down payment on the border wall and provides a bipartisan path forward to complete the remaining FY19 spending bills,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

“Our bipartisan efforts have been essential in securing the passage of this bill and completing the FY19 appropriations process,” he said. “It is my hope that we will all continue to work together as we turn to the FY20 appropriations bills.”

“This is not the agreement I would have reached on my own [as] there are things in this bill that I support, and things that I disagree with – but that is the nature of a negotiation,” said Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “This agreement funds nine federal departments and their related agencies. Everyone had to give something to reach a bipartisan compromise.”

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The Nation

Driver Ronald Feimster hopes to take the freedom of the road to the next level in 2019  

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Ronald Feimster tried working in other kinds of jobs, but he found he likes the freedom and independence truck driving offers. His goal for 2019 is to get his own truck and become an owner-operator. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

You don’t head out on the road without an intended destination, and the vast majority of the time you have a route planned out. And it’s not a bad idea to approach life goals the same way.

Ronald Feimster has begun 2019 with a clear idea of where he wants to get to within the next year.

“My goal is to be an owner-operator and to drive for Oakley Trucking,” he said.

Feimster was finishing breakfast at the Iron Skillet at the TravelCenters of America/Petro truck stop at I-40, exit 161, just outside Little Rock, Arkansas. He’d struck up a conversation with a fellow driver, Tim Plubell, who’s been an owner-operator for nearly 20 years (A story about Plubell can be found in the XXX edition of The Trucker), so Feimster’s career goals were at the front of his mind when The Trucker caught up with him.

He’s done his homework, he said. He knows a lot goes into being an owner-operator.

“I drove for a lease operator before,” Feimster said. “He was the owner-operator. And I loved it. I loved the freedom of it. I know you have to pay for your own maintenance, but a lot of these companies nowadays, they help you with the maintenance, so that cuts that in half. Then you have that fuel surcharge, so that cuts that in half.”

Feimster, who hails from Rogers, Arkansas, has also done his homework on Oakley Trucking, a subsidiary of Bruce Oakley Inc., a commodity trading, distribution and transportation company based in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Oakley Trucking specializes dry bulk transportation throughout the Lower 48 and Canada.

“And Oakley, they pay excellent, but the catch is you have to own your own truck,” Feimster said. “Pull their trailers, but you own your own truck. That’s my goal.”

Long-term, he said, at 47, if all goes as he’s envisioning it, if he gets in at Oakley, it could be the kind of situation where he could spend the rest of his career there.

Not that he’s unhappy where he’s at. Feimster drives for Southern Refrigerated Transport, popularly known as SRT.

“They’re a good company,” Feimster said. “I’d recommend them to anybody.”

He runs a dedicated route pulling reefer for Tyson Foods. His route keeps him within the neighboring states of Arkansas. But, as he explained, he generally gets home about every three weeks.

“I could get home every weekend, but you don’t make any money like that,” he said. “You have to stay out here for a little while. Unless I were an owner-operator. Then I would do it differently.”

Feimster first got into trucking in 1998. Before that, he said, “I wasn’t really doing nothing.” In other words, he had jobs, but he didn’t have a career. “I was doing factory work. It wasn’t that good. So, I got into trucking, basically, to start making more money. I went ahead and got my CDL.”

He started out hauling logs. Since then he’s “been around,” he said, gaining experience working for Panther 2, Swift Transportation and Covenant Transport, which owns SRT.

At one point, he tried to get out of trucking. “I was over-the-road, and I was tired of going through those snowy mountains” in Colorado, he said. The job wasn’t worth risking his life.

“I said, ‘I have got to get out of this,’ because I had just gotten married, and then we had our first child. I’ve got to go home and be a dad,” Feimster said.

He went back to warehouse work and even became a supervisor. But he came to realize that he just wasn’t a company-culture kind of guy. One of the best things about truck driving, Feimster said, is there’s “no one breathing over your back.” Even after having been the one doing the breathing, he hates that kind of work environment.

He said he didn’t want to publicly describe the straw that broke the camel’s back and sent him to trucking. The short version of the story is he was told to fire an employee that he firmly believed didn’t deserve it.

“I said, ‘you know what? This is not a good way to treat people,’” he said. “That was enough for me. I talked to my old lady. I said, ‘I’m going to go back to truck driving.’ She said ‘OK, that’s what you want to do?’ I said I was going to be away from home, but our kids are grown. Everything’s fine. She said go for it. Here I am.”

Trucking may not be perfect, but he needs to feel that independence.

Sure, there are a few ways the job could be better. “We would like more pay,” he said, then quickly added, “who wouldn’t?”

It also bothers him that society in general doesn’t value what truckers do.

“If trucks stopped delivering for just a couple days, the country would come to a standstill,” he said. “Why isn’t the profession held in higher regard?”

Well, there isn’t a whole lot he can do about that. He appreciates what the profession means to him, and he intends to make the most of it.

 

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A driver for 45 years, a husband for 44, Tim Plubell’s life is cruising comfortably along

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Tim Plubell started driving a log truck when he was 18, and for nearly 20 of the 45 years he’s been a professional truck driver, he’s been an owner-operator. The freedom and independence are what make it the perfect profession for him. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

One of the most accurate measures of how much a fellow’s age has distilled into wisdom is the degree to which he has learned to make life easy on himself. It can be in the way he does his job, knowing the best routes to take, the best places to stop. And it can show itself in the way he takes in the world.

At the age of 63 and with 45 years on the road, Tim Plubell has a personality as mellow as if it had been aged in an oak cask. On January 2, he was having breakfast at the Iron Skillet at the Petro Stopping Center off Interstate 40, exit 161, The Trucker’s favorite haunt for meeting drivers.

Plubell was a bit amused.  He said he’d read something on the internet about someone trying to organize a truckers’ shutdown for one reason or another.

“I thought, I do that every few weeks,” he said. “Whenever I go home I shut down for a week. I’m able to do that now.”

Home for Plubell is Frenchville, a little community of about 500 in central Pennsylvania. He was headed back east after dropping off a load in Oklahoma City. That’s about as far west as he goes anymore, he said. In 2019, he’ll have been an owner-operator for 20 years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I work for myself, I do what I want to when I want to,” he said. “Mainly I just like being out by myself. I’m kind of a loner person.” But as he sees it, that’s one of the qualities that makes a person suited for trucking. It’s suited him his entire working life.

“I’ve been driving since I was 18,” Plubell said. “I started driving a log truck for my uncle.” He continued doing that until his uncle retired and closed his business. From there, Plubell became a company driver until 1999, when he was able to buy a truck and go out on his own.

He’s always liked the driving life, but it’s best as an owner-operator. “I got nobody breathing down my back; I got nobody forcing me to do anything I don’t want to do. That’s what I like about it.”

The only down side, as he sees it, is the amount of time he has to spend away from home to make the money he wants to make. Take this past week, for example. He was home for Christmas, but then he left the day after, and he and his wife wound up spending New Year’s Eve apart.

But even that cloud has a silver lining, he explained. A lot of relationships might be strained from spending so much time apart. Not so for Plubell and his wife, who got married about a year after he started driving for his uncle.

“When I started driving it was good for a while,” he said, referring to married life. “I was home every night. But then … being we got married young, we began fighting about a lot of stuff.” Money was the most frequent topic of conflict, as he recalls, as the young couple struggled to adapt to adult responsibilities.

“So, then I got the opportunity to go over-the-road,” he said. After that, “everything got a whole lot better. The money issues went away, and then we got along better.”

It wasn’t just the money, he said. The time apart made them value the time together even more.

Plubell said he tries to get home every weekend, though it doesn’t always pan out. That’s why he doesn’t venture any farther west than Oklahoma City. And except to get home to Frenchville, he pretty much confines his driving to the Southeast this time of year. Driving in northern winter weather isn’t worth the hassle.

It’s not that he doesn’t trust his own ability. It’s the other drivers out there, the amateurs. “Ninety percent of them that pass you are on this,” he said, holding up his cellphone.

After 45 years, he has a spotless accident record, and he’d just as soon keep it that way.

Aside from sharing the road with drivers who seem to be getting more distracted and discourteous as the years go by, the one other thing that Plubell thinks has gotten worse over the years has been all the regulations truckers have to contend with now.

“I mean, there’s a lot of pros and cons about this ELD that’s come out,” he said. “Me, I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me, I can work with it.” But like with a vast majority of drivers, the problem is the rigidity of the rules the ELD is there to log.

For example, a couple of months ago he was making his way home and he hit one construction zone after another. As a result, his clock ran out about 15 minutes from home. Now, in the old days, a driver could say, what the heck, drive the extra 15 minutes, massage the log entry, and who did it hurt, really?

Instead, he had to park the truck, call his son to come get him, and then go back the next morning and get his truck. What sense does that make?

Plubell doesn’t know if he’ll ever fully retire. He has a friend who’s little older than he is who has become a little choosier about how far and how often he drives, and he figures he might follow that example.

Trucking isn’t for everyone, he said, but when it is, it’s tough to imagine not ever doing it.

“I love it,” he said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

 

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