Diving into Exemptions

The best way to explain DOT regulations is, they’re like an iceberg!

I wasn’t thinking about huge and massive, or cold hearted and boring. But both of those seem to fit when you start looking at the them. I was talking about how most of the regulations you don’t see, until your cited for one. Identically most of the iceberg is under the water and you don’t see it until you look for it. Also an iceberg has lots of nooks and crannies, even though it looks smooth from a distance there’s still lots of imperfections. Just like the regulations.

My personal opinion is that the federal government wrote the regulations with those imperfections on purpose. The hardest part is understanding how they can help your company. There a pretty good chance that there are some exemptions that your company qualifies to utilize. Today we are going to break down a few of the most common “loopholes”.

Let’s start with the Agriculture exemption, this can be found in section 395.2 of the CFR. Really what its saying is that all agriculture is exempt from all regulations as long as the driver stays within a 150 air-mile radius of the source of the product. It also states that if you are supplying supplies to a farm from a wholesale or retail vender within a 150 air-mile radius from the distribution point you are exempt from HOS. There are no limitations imposed to specific carriers to this exemption. So it could be applied to someone who is delivering pipe for irrigation, a feed mill, the farmers, ect… One of the most common asked questions is what if my destination is over 150 air-miles away from the source, then what do I do? In 395.1(k)(1) it states that HOS limitations do not take effect until after you cross the 150 air-mile threshold. After that threshold then the drivers HOS would start from 0 hours worked.

The short haul exemption (SHE). This exemption is pretty straight forward. If the driver starts and reports back to the same location within 12 hours, stay within a 100 air-mile radius of that location, and is operating a CDL vehicle then they qualify for SHE. Or if the driver is operating a non CDL commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and reports to and from the same location within 14 hours and stay within a 150 air-mile radius of their start/end location, they also qualify for SHE. Actually all that SHE does is disables parts of the hours of service regulations for the driver. The driver no longer needs to keep track of their drive time, on duty time, ect… There are a few things a company you must do to comply with SHE regulations. First you need to be able to provide the drivers start time, end time, and total time, as well as the unit the driver was operating. On the flip side the driver still has to have 10 consecutive hours off duty and they are not allowed to operate a CMV after being on duty for 70 hours in 8 days or 60 hours in 7 days (depending on how the company operates). The driver still has to be properly qualified. More can be found in CFR 395(e)

Utility exemption 395.2. Any vehicle that is used in repairing, maintaining or operating facilities necessary for the delivery of services to the public can utilize this exemption. In layman’s terms if the company is working with, gas line, electric, water, sanitation, television, communication lines, ect… the company can qualify for this exemption. With the utility exemption the driver is exempt from all HOS regulations. They must be properly qualified and their DQ file needs to be up to date.

What is oilfield equipment and do I qualify for that exemption? In the energy industry there are always loads of questions around this. The best way to describe oilfield equipment is anything that is used in construction of the oilfield in any shape or form. If a company hauls heavy equipment to or from a pipeline or well pad, then they qualify for the exemption. Not the waiting time, but the 24 hour reset. This allows drivers to utilize the 24 hour reset for their hours instead of the 34 hour. If the company has trucks that are tied to the well head in any fashion, that company would also qualify to be able to utilize wait-time. More information on this exemption can be found in CRF 395.1(d)

The most common question I get from drivers across the country is why do I have to follow all of these regulations when there’s an “old” guy driving an enormous 3 axle motorhome, pulling his jeep, pulling a boat. Why doesn’t he have to follow the same regulations. The answer is they don’t because the federal government wrote an exemption from all driver qualifications, and hours of service regulations for anyone who is operating a recreational vehicle.

If you are interested in other exemptions from HOS then check out 395.1. I always suggest that every company studies the federal regulations. Everyone needs some good material that will put you to sleep.

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