FMCSA requests comments on guidance for ag haulers

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requesting public comments to clarify guidance for agricultural commodities haulers with respect to hours of service.

The agency is seeking to clarify its guidance for motor carriers and state enforcement officials, noting that existing exemption language “is susceptible to multiple interpretations.” Comments are due by Jan. 19. You can comment on the proposal here.

The proposed regulatory guidance would clarify the exception with regard to the following issues:

  • Drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity, as defined in 49 CFR 395.2, or returning from a delivery point.
  • Drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity.

The request for comment notes that several agricultural transporters have requested guidance on how the exception would apply if a driver were to pick up partial loads at two or more locations – specifically, whether the 150 air-mile radius begins at the first pick-up location or the last. The agency’s previous informal guidance has been that the air-mile radius is based on the first pickup, with additional pickups not extending the radius.

In addition, the agency is asking for public comment on whether grain elevators and/or livestock sale barns should be considered a “source” of agricultural commodities, and how the exception should apply when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.

If finalized, the proposed guidance would last up to five years.

On Wednesday, the FMCSA also published its 90-day exemption to the ELD mandate for agricultural commodities haulers. The exemption petition was filed by the National Pork Producers Council on behalf of eight organizations representing transporters of livestock and other agricultural commodities. The waiver expires March 18.

The waiver applies to all eligible motor carriers that handle agricultural commodities as defined under 49 CFR 395.2. Drivers covered by the waiver include those hauling “any agricultural commodity, nonprocessed food, feed, fiber or livestock.” Livestock is defined as “cattle, elk, reindeer, bison, horses, deer, sheep, goats, swine, poultry (including egg-producing poultry), fish used for food and other animals designated … that are part of a foundation herd or offspring.”

The waivers apply to all drivers hauling the aforementioned loads, regardless of their distance traveled or whether they cross state lines. The waiver does not apply to motor carriers with conditional or unsatisfactory safety ratings. Drivers seeking to use the waiver must have a copy of it with them.