Electronic Logging Devices & CMVs: What New Regulations Mean For Horse Owners

Social media has been abuzz today with concern from horse owners over upcoming regulations requiring commercial motor vehicles to carry electronic logging devices starting in December. Here’s what you need to know.

Trailers of the East Coast/Flickr/CC

The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP-21 bill, was enacted in 2012 by Congress with ongoing implementation for the next few years. Of most concern for livestock haulers and horse owners is the phasing in of a requirement for commercial motor vehicles install and use an electronic logging device, or ELD.

The purpose of an ELD is to log the hours of driving time performed by a driver: legally, a driver can only be on the road for 11 hours in a 14-hour stretch before they are required to take a mandatory 10-hour rest period. The ELD records drive time and alerts the driver when he or she is over their hours; any infractions are recorded by the ELD and can be viewed during inspection. Drivers found to be in violation during inspection or traffic stop can be fined.

Currently, we’re in the “awareness and transition phase” as described by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) — commercial drivers are not currently required to have an ELD but are encouraged to start the transition now from paper log books, logging software and automatic on-board recording devices. The next stage, phasing in the ELD, begins on December 18, 2017.

While we typically picture tractor-trailers when we mentally envision a commercial driver or commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the reality is that CMVs can come in many shapes and sizes, and these rules and requirements apply to all of them.

What is considered a commercial motor vehicle?

The full legal description of commercial motor vehicles can be found here. The commercial motor vehicle definition as would apply to horse owners can include a truck and trailer with a total gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds, as well as a truck and trailer that have been written off as business expenses or are used for business — if you’re a professional trainer and your rig is part of your business, it’s considered a commercial vehicle. Even if your vehicle does not actually require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) but is part of your business, it can be considered a commercial vehicle. If you haul horses for compensation, your truck and trailer are considered commercial vehicles.

If you’re a sponsored rider, you are considered a professional and your truck and trailer are also considered commercial.

Essentially, if your truck and trailer is used for profit or for business purposes, it’s considered a CMV and all of the CMV rules apply, as they always have. You need a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, and some states may require a state number as well.


A full list of exemptions can be found here. The most key exemption for horse owners reads: “Unless otherwise specifically provided, the rules in [Subchapter B, including the definition of a CMV] do not apply to the occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation and not in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.”

In explanation, amateur owners/non-pros are exempt from the commercial vehicle status if they’re hauling for recreational purposes: you can still load up your horses and go trail riding, and you can still haul your horse to go show for fun as long as you are not deducting your expenses for tax purposes for a business and counting any prize monies as ordinary income (not business income). Essentially, for the recreational horse owner, there’s no need to worry about installing an ELD as hauling is not considered commercial.

Agricultural exemptions also apply to CMVs: the full list of agricultural exemptions can be found here. For transporting horses under the agricultural exemption, you may travel within a 150-mile radius from the source of your commodity without requiring an ELD — in this case, let’s assume your load of horses from your home barn. You may also travel outside of that 150-mile radius no more than eight days every 30 days with the use of a paper log (no need to use an ELD).

Clear as mud, right?

The upcoming ELD requirement starting on December 18, 2017 will definitely impact professional horsemen and horsewomen who spend a lot of time and miles on the road; individuals who are already following rules and regulations for CMVs will likely not have to modify their individual practices. The changes coming in December are increasing the potential for these rules to be enforced more strongly.

More information can be found at the FMCSA website.

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