Carriers can use older engines to avoid ELDs
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently reversed its position on what conditions qualify for the pre-2000 model year exemption from the upcoming electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. The agency originally said that what matters is the model year of the truck reflected by the VIN number. Now, FMCSA says what matters is the model year of the engine. The change is significant because instead of trying to find a vanishing supply of pre-2000 trucks, carriers could skirt the ELD mandate by installing older engines in newer trucks or by using "glider kits" to restore or reconstruct an older truck with an older engine.
On the other hand, carriers that run older trucks but have replaced the engines with ones that are model year or newer will now be subject to the ELD mandate if their drivers otherwise would have to use the devices -- i.e., they are required to complete records of duty status.
The latest guidance on FMCSA's website, dated July 12, states:
If the vehicle registration for a commercial motor vehicle reflects a model year of 2000 or newer, but the connections and motor vehicle components (such as the engine) are older than model year 2000, is the vehicle exempt from the ELD rule?
Yes. When a vehicle is registered, the model year should follow the criteria established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There may be instances where the model year reflected on the vehicle registration is not the same as the engine model year, most commonly when a vehicle is rebuilt using a “glider kit.” In this circumstance, an inspector/investigator should use the model year on the engine to determine if the driver is exempt from the ELD requirements. If the engine model year is older than 2000, the driver is not subject to the ELD rule. In instances in which the engine model year is 2000 or newer, and the vehicle registration reflects a model year older than 2000, the driver is subject to the ELD rule. While the driver is not required to possess documentation that confirms the vehicle engine model year. 49 CFR Part 379 Appendix A, requires motor carriers to maintain all documentation on motor and engine changes at the principle place of business. If a determination cannot be made at the roadside, Law Enforcement should refer the case for further investigation.
This replaces the original guidance, posted September 6, 2016, which states:
If a commercial motor vehicle is equipped with a glider kit that is newer than model year 2000, but the connections and motor vehicle components (such as the engine) are older than model year 2000, is the vehicle exempt from the ELD rule?
No. ELD use is required for vehicles whose VINs reflects a model year of 2000 or newer. The ELD rule requires a reasonable proxy for this data if the engine control module (ECM) or ECM connectivity does not provide it. If the currently installed engine does not support an ECM to obtain or estimate the required vehicle parameters, then the operator must use an ELD that does not rely on ECM connectivity, provided that the accuracy requirements of the final rule are met. See Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 395 section 4.3.1 of the ELD rule for accuracy requirements.
However, the question of whether the driver is exempt is a bit complicated. There's an additional July 12, 2017, response that indicates that the manufacture date of the truck does matter:
If the vehicle registration for a commercial motor vehicle reflects a model year of 2000 or newer, but the vehicle was manufactured without an engine control module (ECM), is the carrier required to comply with the ELD rule? Yes, a motor carrier operating a vehicle with a manufactured model year of 2000 and newer and without an ECM is subject to the ELD rule. If the currently installed engine does not support an ECM and is unable to obtain or estimate the required vehicle parameters, then the operator must use an ELD that does not rely on ECM connectivity, but nevertheless meets the accuracy requirements of the final rule. See Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 395 sections 4.2 and 4.3.1 of the ELD rule for accuracy requirements.
It's unclear how many pre-2000 engines might be available for retrofit. Certainly, there are not many pre-2000 trucks. A leading used-truck search website currently lists more than 34,000 conventional tractors equipped with sleepers, but only 644 - about 2% - of them are older than model year 2000.
Meanwhile, although there have been modest steps in Congress to delay implementation of the ELD mandate, there's no indication yet these efforts will be successful.