Understanding Short Haul Exemption and Am I Exempt?

The COVID-19 pandemic changed every industry in the world, and trucking took a major hit to the way drivers addressed shipper’s needs. Supply chain disruptions have been affecting trucking for years, and it’s likely to only require greater change from companies to work around. 

In 2020, to protect drivers’ health and promote a healthier work environment, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revised its hours-of-service regulations. The short-haul exception allows drivers to work with greater flexibility without breaking compliance. Understanding the short-haul exception rule affects freight management for carriers and brokers. 

 In this article, we’ll address how short-hauling works, how to qualify for the short-haul exemption and what to know about the new FMCSA Hours of Service (HOS) for short-hauling trucking regulations. Before we explore the exception in more detail, let’s take a look at what short-haul trucking is.

What Is Short Hauling?

Short hauling refers to truckers who operate solely in a 150-mile radius. Many enjoy this type of trucking because it offers good pay and steady work with more free time and greater stability for families. 

Both regional and local trucking can do short hauls. Unlike over-the-road (OTR) trucking, short-hauling only services one particular area. This keeps drivers closer to their homes while still giving them the freedom and flexibility they love. 

Typically, a short-haul driver travels 150 miles for a single delivery one-way while OTR truckers can travel hundreds to thousands of miles for jobs. 

Local truckers’ short hauls are even shorter than regional drivers. They service local businesses and become staples in their community. One of the biggest reasons so many drivers and companies love short-haul trucking is its flexibility and exemptions. Trucking compliance can be difficult for companies to manage, especially during times of high demand. 

Short hauling offers consistent work and a steady stream of loads while eliminating some of the typical compliance regulations other drivers must maintain.

How Does the Short-Haul Exemption Work?

According to the short-haul exception, a driver does not need to take a mandatory 30-minute break or required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) or provide records of duty status (RODS). 

When a driver qualifies for the short-haul exception, they are able to work faster without being bogged down by red tape and regulations. This doesn’t give them freedom to operate however they want — this exception actually serves to make work for the short-hauler easier and safer overall. 

When a driver meets the qualifying criteria for the short-haul exception, they can operate more efficiently thanks to the changes a company must make to accommodate the exception. For example, a company must optimize its routes to ensure a driver can return to their starting point at the end of each day. 

Who Qualifies to Use the Short-Haul Exemption?

 Companies with drivers who operate within a 150-mile radius may qualify for the short-haul exception. But there are additional criteria to consider before you can safely claim the exception. Short-haul trucking regulations demand companies meet the following standards before they can exempt any drivers. 

1. Drivers Must Return to the Same Destination at the End of Each Work Day 

If your driver starts their day at your warehouse and ends it at another one, then you are automatically disqualified for the short-haul trucking exception. It is paramount that a short-haul trucker starts and ends their workday at the same location to avoid needing the 30-minute break or reporting their RODS.

 ELDs provide data that can help you prove short-haul exception compliance as well as information that optimized deliveries and improves vehicle maintenance.

2. Drivers Must Only Operate in 150-Air-Mile Radius

It may sound strange to talk about air miles when referring to trucks, but it makes a difference in how far your drivers can commute in any given day. Air miles are slightly longer than standard miles, so 150 air-miles actually convert 172.6 road miles.

 No matter what they deliver, a driver must only operate this distance from their work reporting location to qualify for the exemption.

3. Shifts Can Last No Longer Than 11 Hours in a 14-Hour Period

During a maximum 14-hour shift, a driver cannot be behind the wheel for more than 11-hours at a time, and they must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours on the road.

 If drivers are performing jobs in foul weather, such as snow or rain, or in the event of traffic incidents, then the rule extends to 16-hour shifts. This allows companies to still qualify for the exemption when a driver’s road time is affected by outside circumstances.

4. Drivers Must Have at Least 10 Hours Off Between Their Shifts

If you plan to book loads back-to-back, you’ll need to diversify your driving team. Even though their jobs may not take them too far from their starting point, no short-haul exception driver can work two shifts in under 10 hours.

 The 10-hour rule ensures drivers have adequate time to rest and recover, so they are always alert on the road. For most short-hauling trucking companies, this isn’t difficult to maintain. Most drivers are able to work six to eight hours a day and have 10 or more hours off between shifts.

5. Your Company Must Maintain Accurate Records of Driver Activity

While the driver may not have to file RODS under the exception, your company still needs data to prove its compliance. Records of your drivers’ working hours must include detailed information about their daily mileage and shifts, their total number of hours worked each day and how much each driver commutes in a 7-day period. 

Every company that wants to claim the short-haul driving exception must have records for the last 6 months. This data is not the same as a RODS, which is done by an individual driver.

How to Qualify for the DOT Short-Haul Exemption

The best thing you can do as a company is to optimize driving routes for your drivers. The faster they can work, the more efficient your company becomes. It’s also important to discuss what to do on days they do not qualify. 

Some drivers may not realize that the need to not complete RODS or take a 30-minute break only applies when the above criteria is met. If they’re ever working a day that the circumstances change, then they must follow usual FMCSA compliance.

Carriers operating under the short-haul exemption typically have more loads and paperwork to manage each week because each load is less than one day. Truckbase is a simple online tool that helps small trucking companies save time on paperwork. Our easy-to-use tools are great for short haulers.

If you’re an owner-operator and looking for more ways to save time and money, look into how TruckBase can assist you in the office so that you can spend more time where it matters most, schedule a demo with us today!

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