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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The racing season is here and many racers are making the final touches on race cars and preparing for the first race. All types of trailers and tow vehicles will be crossing the highways transporting race cars to ovals, road courses and drag strips across the nation.
While racers are all set to try out new cars and new parts, there is one item many may not even know they are required by law to have on tow vehicles. Is the new federally mandated Electronic Logging Device (ELD) installed on your tow vehicle?
What is an ELD?
The ELD mandate was enacted as part of the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, more commonly known as MAP-21. In short, the mandate is removing paper logs for commercial vehicles and replacing them with electronic devices. For the most part, racers only need to worry about the ELD Mandate if the tow rig is considered a commercial vehicle, which can require operators to maintain RODS or Record of Duty Status.
So that’s only for the top teams with big rigs to worry about, right? Think again.
Just because a motorhome, toterhome, pickup truck or whatever other vehicle is used to transport a race car has a “Not For Hire” decal on the side doesn’t mean it isn’t required to operate as a commercial vehicle under the law.
While many may consider a tow rig to be a “recreational” vehicle and at times it might be, when towing a race team to the track it may be considered a vehicle being used for commerce. It’s not about the type of vehicle/trailer combination as much as it is about the weight and primary use of the vehicle.
How the law reads…
According to the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, motor vehicles used in commerce (primary business) to transport passengers or property with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or a gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more, including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds is a commercial vehicle.
"It’s always good to be familiar with the laws regarding racing rigs."
- MIke Kerchner, Speed Sport (USMA Photo)
If my tow rig fits that bill, it must be registered as a commercial vehicle, and an ELD is required? The clear answer is, maybe.
There are some exemptions from the ELD and motorsports is specifically mentioned. But there is a criteria that must be met to receive this exemption. When the USMA spoke to the FMCSA we were guided to question No. 21 on the FMCSA website’s question-and-answer page.
Question 21: Does the exemption in §390.3(f)(3) for the “occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation nor in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise” apply to persons who occasionally use CMVs to transport cars, boats, horses, etc., to races, tournaments, shows or similar events, even if prize money is offered at these events?
Guidance: The exemption would apply to this kind of transportation, provided: (1) The underlying activities are not undertaken for profit, i.e., (a) prize money is declared as ordinary income for tax purposes, and (b) the cost of the underlying activities is not deducted as a business expense for tax purposes; and, where relevant; (2) corporate sponsorship is not involved. Drivers must confer with their State of licensure to determine the licensing provisions to which they are subject.
Again, it must be determined whether or not the tow rig is considered a commercial vehicle.
If traveling to a handful of races locally or regionally, it’s not a primary business, you aren’t making money or deducting expenses from races on your taxes, or you’re not getting sponsorship money, then most likely there isn’t much to worry about. If racing activity can truthfully be classified as purely “recreational,” then stop reading this and get back to figuring out how to go faster, instead of how to get a CDL license and buy an ELD device.
But if the vehicle in question is over the weight stated above (regardless of vehicle type) and sponsors are involved and tax expenses are being written off, the tow rig may be considered a commercial vehicle. Once the tow rig is considered a commercial vehicle, it still must be decided if its operator is required to maintain logs or Record of Duty Status.
If the tow vehicle is deemed commercial and it has been determined that Record of Duty Status must be maintained, the vehicle is required to have the ELD device. The ELD law went into effect in December and will begin being enforced in April. Unless, of course, the vehicle meets the exemptions for the ELD.
Some of the exemptions include distance traveled — if a team travels 100 miles or less from its home base and returns to the home base, it is exempt from the ELD. If travel is less than eight days in a rolling month, the team could be exempt. And again, if the racing activity isn’t the primary business, sponsors aren’t involved and tax exemptions pertaining to racing are not being taken, the team is likely exempt from needing the ELD.
Confused? So are we to some degree.
In fairness to lawmakers, we’re certain motorsports was not a topic of discussion when creating these laws. Commercial trucking was the target with the intent of creating safer highways for all of us. Motorsports can be confusing to even the most avid racers and fans, which can create some unintended consequences when making laws.
There are so many types of racing and different levels of our sport. Often what is seen on the outside of our transporters does not tell the full story of how teams are structured. For example, a racing trailer may have sponsors all over it. But that doesn’t mean the team is making money. And it certainly is not likely to be a primary business. Most racers, especially grassroots racers are making their money somewhere else despite how it may appear to outsiders.
Only a small percentage of race teams are truly making money as a primary business. Even some of the best known and highest-profile race teams are being funded by another core business.
Short track racers need to be sure that their rigs are legal as they travel across the country.
Who’s going to enforce these laws and what if I get stopped on the highway?
It’s going to come down to the law enforcement officer who makes the traffic stop. And while we have tremendous respect for law enforcement, we are already hearing of many cases of great inconsistencies. A driver could get stopped 10 times by 10 different officers in 10 different states and wind up with 10 different outcomes. Even if one studied all the laws and met all the criteria for exemption, how would one prove that on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere?
Most transportation and license issues are pretty clear. We’ve all heard these words before after getting pulled over, “License and registration, please.” The officer looks at the license and registration, runs it through the computer and if all is good, the driver continues on. Striking up a conversation about racing, may even get the driver out of a deserved speeding ticket. It’s very straightforward and clear. But with commercial vehicles and the ELD, the road can quickly become foggy.
If an ELD is required, there are costs and more unintended issues to face with the technology itself. Estimated costs for the ELD will range somewhere around $500-$1,000 per truck annually. But the added costs may not be the biggest headache. The ELD connects to the engine and therefore can have adverse effects. Like many new technologies once in use by the masses they begin to show their faults. We spoke to officials of the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association and since the implementation date their organization’s members have encountered a number of issues.
Drivers reported everything from mechanical issues with their vehicles, systems not logging driving time correctly and even manufacturers stating that plugging in the ELD will void their warranty. With nearly every complaint logged by OOIDA there were claims of customer service issues in getting help with the devices. Many reported that they either couldn’t get a call back or that customer services had no solutions for their specific issues.
Motorsports could face its own separate set of issues with the ELD. The ELD synchronizes with the engine and records vehicle movements. It has less flexibility in logging “on duty” or “off duty” time than a traditional logbook. For example, once arriving at the track, the vehicle may need to be moved numerous times to get it parked, or it may be driven to the hotel or to dinner each evening. In off road endurance racing the rig might move each day to a new location. The ELD simply may not understand the unique activities involved with racing. As well, the truck driver may have other duties at the track that may not be legal depending the hours accumulated behind the wheel.
At this point, there is no clear answer as how to combat this legislation. But the USMA is beginning to look at options. For now, we encourage racers to read through the law and if it is determined that their tow rigs are considered commercial vehicles, we encourage racers to become compliant with the ELD rules. If a tow rig usage leans more toward “recreation,” there is no need to panic. But we know that leaves many racers uncertain about their status in regard to the ELD regulations and commercial vehicle laws in general.
We want to receive questions and hear real-life stories from out on the road. The USMA has set up a link where racers can log any transportation issues (ELD related or not) or specific questions about this law. We don’t have all the answers, but we want to learn more through the questions and personal experiences of those on the road.
What can our industry do about this issue?
The USMA has taken a first step to bring forward as much clarity and information as we can. But the reality is that commercial trucking laws don’t always fit neatly and clearly within the motorsports industry. While we will never look to change laws that truly make our roads safer, we are looking into possible exemptions, clarifying language, or other changes that could provide a more clear and realistic set of rules for race teams.
Want to get involved and contribute to the process?
The USMA has launched a Motorsports Transportation Council to bring together a diverse group of racing industry individuals and experts to take a deeper look into transportation issues facing our industry. If interested in serving as a participant and member of the council, please contact the USMA at 844-643-2777 ext. 1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.