- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will grant all members of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) an exemption to hours-of-service requirements that would have necessitated the use of costly electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track their duty status during shifts.
- Under current regulations, short-haul drivers are required to return to their work-reporting locations within 12 hours of starting duty. Failure to do so more than eight times within 30 days triggers the requirement to install ELDs. This new exemption extends the window to 14 hours for NWRA members.
- “This is a historic win for our members in the waste and recycling industry,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith in a statement. “While NWRA recognizes the safety benefits that ELDs present for other sectors, these devices are actually counterproductive for our industry and increase risks associated with distracted driving due to the frequency that waste and recycling industry drivers must interact with them."
Federal ELD requirements – established by a 2012 law – apply to all commercial drivers, but they're largely geared toward long-haul truckers. NWRA argued it would cost members $116.7 million over two years to comply with these requirements and has continued to push for an exemption since the rules took effect in December 2017.
The industry argued that the changing nature of traffic, weather and other factors on a collection route might make it challenging to ensure drivers would return within the 12 hour window. Additionally, NWRA and its members argued that ongoing interaction with ELDs would present an additional distraction and pose a safety issue. This was cited as a particular concern for residential drivers already contending with "maneuvering through residential areas, parking lots, among parked cars, pedestrians, and other motorists of all types."
FMCSA granted exemptions to members of the National Asphalt Paving Association and Motion Picture Association of America in January 2018. It has taken much longer for action in the waste industry. Multiple companies applied for their own exemptions, but Waste Management and its fleet of 18,500 trucks was the only one to see success. Since that occurred in October 2018, many have anticipated an industry-wide exemption would follow.
NWRA filed its own application on behalf of all members in March of this year. Supportive comments were submitted by Waste Management, Republic Services, Waste Connections, WCA Waste Corporation and Rumpke Waste & Recycling, among others.
FMCSA ultimately concurred, finding that: "because the exemption would extend neither the 11-hour driving time allowed during the work shift nor the 14-hour driving window applicable to all other truck drivers, there is no reason to believe that the 7 safety performance of these drivers would be compromised ... Therefore, the Agency believes that the exempted drivers will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption."
This exemption is effective upon publication in the Federal Register and will last for five years. In the meantime, it's possible that a pending FMCSA proposal to extend the short-haul exemption to 14 hours for all commercial drivers may nullify the need for any future extensions.