Can updating your commercial vehicle fleet lead to legal issues?

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A new tractor-trailer could cost as much as a house. These massive machines require a major investment to purchase and maintain them, and keep them running as part of your fleet.

If you started building your own commercial transportation business, you may have initially been the only worker as an owner-operator.

You may have decided to purchase an older vehicle to keep your costs low. You may have continued to apply that same philosophy to your business’s expansion as you brought on new drivers. With proactive maintenance and careful driving, commercial trucks that are decades old could still be a valuable part of your business operations.

There are even certain secondary benefits to having older vehicles, such as getting to bypass certain regulatory requirements. Unfortunately, that could mean that you run afoul of the law when you eventually upgrade one or more of your vehicles to a more recent or brand-new model.

Newer commercial vehicles require electronic logging devices

If every vehicle in your commercial fleets has a manufacturing year of 2000 or earlier, your company’s vehicles weren’t part of the mandatory rollout of electronic logging devices (ELDs) a few years ago. While other companies struggled to fine-tune their systems and retrain their workers, you were able to keep operating as usual.

Once you add newer vehicles to your fleet, you will also have to comply with ELD requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Provided that your transportation business meets certain requirements, you will have to install an ELD in the newer vehicle and maintains digital records of when a worker uses it.

What other exemptions are there?

Other than the exemption for older vehicles, there are few situations in which a commercial company can avoid the expense and frustration of using ELDs instead of traditional, physical logbooks. If the vehicle only runs a few days a month, specifically eight or fewer, an ELD is not necessary. The same is true if the route or use of the vehicle meets short-haul requirements.

Some drivers are exempt from the EDL requirement if they only drive short routes, such as a daily delivery route. Drivers who operate within a 150-mile radius of where they work and who work shifts of less than 12 hours qualify as short-haul drivers. Newer vehicles that drive more often or farther than that will require ELDs.

Ensuring that your company remains in compliance with changing federal regulations can help you avoid citations that could cost you money or damage your credibility as a transportation professional.