How Motor Carriers Can Submit A DOT Exemption Request


Did you know that anyone can request to be exempt from an FMCSA regulation?

You might see news articles or receive FMCSA emails that announce carriers requesting an exemption from a DOT regulation.

Maybe you are a driver wanting an exemption from Diabetes or Vision standards or a motor carrier asking to be exempt from hours-of-service regulations.

More recently, Freightwaves wrote an article “FMCSA to consider easing CDL rule for truck driver trainees” that highlights Pitt Ohio’s exemption request to allow under 21 drivers in the interstate pilot program to not have a CDL, but just a CLP.

With these announcements, many wonder how these requests are started or just think FMCSA is allowing all of these requests.

So, to help clear up this confusion, let’s break down what exemption requests actually are and the process they go through.

What is an exemption request?

As with all government processes, there are rules and regulations that define and detail the process. Exemption requests are no different.

According to 49 CFR Part 381.300, “an exemption is temporary regulatory relief from one or more FMCSR given to a person or class of persons subject to the regulations, or who intend to engage in an activity that would make them subject to the regulations.”

The exemption provides the person or carrier with relief from the regulations for up to 5 years, and may be renewed, upon request, for subsequent 5-year periods.

But exemptions can only be pursued for certain regulations, which include:

  • Part 380 – Special Training Requirements;
  • Part 382 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing;
  • Part 383 – Commercial Driver’s License Standards; Requirements and Penalties;
  • Part 384 – State Compliance with Commercial Driver’s License Program;
  • Part 391 – Qualifications of Drivers;
  • Part 392 – Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles;
  • Part 393 – Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation;
  • Part 395 – Hours of Service of Drivers;
  • Part 396 – Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance (except for § 396.25); and
  • Part 399 – Step, Handhold and Deck Requirements.

The FMCSA will immediately revoke your exemption if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the exemption; the exemption has resulted in a lower level of safety than was maintained before the exemption was granted; or continuation of the exemption is determined by the FMCSA to be inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the FMCSRs.

When can a driver or carrier apply for an exemption?

According to Part 381.305, you may apply for an exemption if one or more FMCSR prevents you from implementing more efficient or effective operations that would maintain a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level achieved without the exemption.

This means you need to determine whether there are any “practical alternatives” that are already available that would allow you to conduct your operations and determine the scope of regulations you are asking to be exempt from.

For example, if you need regulatory relief from one of the recordkeeping requirements concerning driver qualifications, you should not request regulatory relief from all Part 391 requirements.

What is the exemption request application and process?

Again, all of this is clearly stated in the regulations under Part 381.310 to 381.315.

First things first, you must send a written request (typed or handwritten letter) to:

Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001

In this letter, you must identify the person or class of persons who would be covered by the exemption, with all of the following details:

  1. Your name, job title, mailing address, and daytime phone number;
  2. The name of the individual or motor carrier that would be responsible for the use or operation of CMVs;
  3. Principal place of business for the motor carrier (street address, city, state, and zip code); and
  4. USDOT identification number for the motor carrier

The written statement must also provide the following details:

  • Describe the reason the exemption is needed, including the time period during which it is needed;
  • Identify the regulation from which you would like to be exempt;
  • Provide an estimate of the total number of drivers and CMVs that would be operated under the terms and conditions of the exemption;
  • Assess the safety impacts the exemption may have;
  • Explain how you would ensure that you could achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulation; and
  • Describe the impacts you could experience if the exemption is not granted by the FMCSA

Lastly, your application must include a copy of all research reports, technical papers, and other publications and documents you reference.

Then comes the scrutiny of your request from the public and the government.

After receiving your exemption request, the FMCSA will review and prepare your application for a Federal Register notice requesting public comment on your application.

As you can see, the FMCSA will not provide their opinion of your request by the time the public gets to review and comment on the application.

After a review of the comments, which can take 30 days or longer to receive, FMCSA will make a recommendation to the Administrator to either grant or deny the exemption, and a notice of the Administrator’s decision will be published in the Federal Register.

Additionally, the agency will attempt to issue a final decision within 180 days of the date it receives your application or within 180 days of receiving any additional important information necessary for the FMCSA to prepare a meaningful request for public comments.

What happens after a decision is made?

According to the regulations, if the exemption is granted, the notice will identify the provisions of the FMCSRs from which you will be exempt, the effective period, and all terms and conditions of the exemption.

However, if the exemption is denied, the notice will explain the reason for the denial, and you can reasonably address the reasons for denial by resubmitting your application with necessary changes or data.

DOT Training

Drivers need to properly manage their driver logs, ELDs, and pre- and post-trip inspections. Carriers should implement quality:

  • driver training that is ongoing and consistent
  • driver education, and
  • driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws

All of this will help prevent being a target for the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.

Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person or online training courses tailored to the specific needs or weaknesses of your company.

Questions about DOT Compliance, Licensing, Audits, Programs, etc.?

Our DOT Specialists are here to help!

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