ELDs and CDLs: Get your most-asked questions answered

The new electronic logging device mandate has raised a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of the more common.

February 9, 2018

5 Min Read
ELDs and CDLs: Get your most-asked questions answered

By Codi Vallery-Mills

The recent electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that was handed down recently for commercial truckers is likely here to stay, but there is hope that maybe those regulations get relaxed a bit.

In the meantime, ag producers and livestock haulers have plenty of questions. Do I need an ELD for my truck or don’t I? Do I need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for my horse trailer or don’t I?

Those were among the questions people in attendance at an ELD and transportation meeting, hosted by the Black Hills Stock Show and South Dakota Stockgrowers, were hoping to find out on Jan. 31.

John Broers, South Dakota Highway Patrol captain, was on hand to help navigate the various scenarios drivers threw at him during the meeting. He says there has been a lot of misinformation that needs to be clarified about the mandate.

To that end, Broers busted a few myths about ELDs. According to him:

  • Trucks equipped with ELDs will not shut off after hitting the mandated maximum hours of drive time.

  • There is a GPS in the ELDs but that does not mean law enforcement can track you.

  • There are no changes to the daily driving limits, it just means everything will now be logged electronically versus paper.

  • If you are an “occasional” driver of eight or fewer days a month outside the 150-mile radius or ag exemption area, you can continue to use paper log books and not implement the ELDs.

  • Drivers with trucks older than 1999 will continue to use paper logbooks because the ELDs are not compatible with older truck models.

Related:11 talking points to discuss the ELD mandate

How are the ELDs read when stopped by a highway official? There is a computer-like screen that law enforcement can read. The ELD information can also be emailed direct to a law enforcement official.

Paper logs are required to be in your truck as back up. “Technology can fail. Be able to pick up where your device stopped at,” Broers says.

Proposed ag exemption

There is much confusion about when the 14-hour clock (11 hours of drive time, plus 3 hours of on-duty time) starts ticking for ag commodity haulers under the proposed 150 air miles ag exemption. Broers says two things are to be calculated into the equation. The source of origin of that commodity (livestock, logs or grain) and the 150-mile radius.

If a trucker is hauling empty, he can drive within 150 miles of his source point without logging hours. When the driver picks up his load, say of cattle, he continues to have that 150-mile radius to travel with the cattle on board before his clock begins to start. Once the trucker goes out of his 150-mile radius, logbooks need to be kept and the clock starts ticking.

Related:Fact sheet clarifies new transport regulations’ reach on agriculture industry

“Ag commodities are likely going to get a pretty good exemption with this,” Broers says. “Again, there is no change in the drive hours allowed – no new, no extra – so if you can make your drive in the time now, you can easily make it with this exemption.”

To help clarify, truckers will have 11 hours of drive time to get their commodities delivered. The time spent in that 150-mile radius of the source point does not count toward the 11 hours as proposed.

Truckers and ag producers have until Feb. 20 to comment on the proposed rule. To comment, visit regulations.gov and search for “Hours of Service of Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles: Transportation of Agricultural Commodities.”

CDL requirements

There are no new CDL requirements, but Broers points out that some people may not realize they need a CDL.


Farmers and ranchers are exempt from most of the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations while traveling in the state the vehicle is registered in, and 150 miles from the farm if you cross state lines, when driving a vehicle combination over 26,000 GVWR. If under 26,000 GVWR, they are exempt from most regulations across the United States. Once beyond the 150 miles from the farm, the Federal Motor Carrier Rules would apply.


Rodeo animals, cutting horses, cattle for junior stock shows etc. often are transported by farmer/ranches, as these hobbies go hand in hand with ranching and other pursuits. Broers says law enforcement looks at the purpose of the trip.

“If you are going to a recreational activity, not for the pursuit of a business endeavor, this is not a business. If you are going to a stock show or other to advertise, promote, show, or sell goods or services of your farm, this is a business and you must comply with the farm exemptions, or if beyond the farm exemptions, you must comply with all applicable federal motor carrier rules,” he says.

For example, you farm or ranch but also wish to compete in a rodeo or cutting horse competition. These are hobbies and not regulated. If you take two horses to the cutting horse competition to sell them, sell your training services or breeding services, this is a business, not a hobby.


People hauling for the purpose of conducting business do need to follow motor carrier rules, which if over 26,000 GVWR requires a CDL.

In the cutting horse example, those people are hauling for profit. “Are you claiming winnings or deducting the trip on taxes? Do you have a sponsor? Those things and the purpose of that trip are what we are going to look at,” Broers says in regard to determining who needs to adhere to federal regulations.

“In South Dakota it is going to be business as usual. I have the same amount of people doing the same amount of work. We don’t want to mess with the people that have a hobby. We will focus on the people that are making it a business,” Broers says of who will likely be asked to prove requirements.

Codi Vallery-Mills is an ag journalist based in Sturgis, S.D. where she lives, writes and ranches with her family.

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