A coalition of producers, handlers, and shippers in the perishable fruit and vegetable industry are petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modify the rules regarding hours of service and the electronic logging mandate.
“Our growers, handlers and shippers urge your consideration to ensure the safe and timely delivery of perishable fruits and vegetables,” the coalition wrote in the petition dated March 15.
The coalition includes 24 national and state groups in the fruit and vegetable industry, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Watermelon Association, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and the Western Growers.
As part of the petition the following modifications were requested:
- Add an allowance for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without this rest time counting against their hours-of-service allotments.
- Exclude loading and unloading times from the 14-hour on-duty hours-of-service calculations.
- Allow drivers to complete their trip, regardless of hours-of-service requirements, if they come within 150 air miles of their delivery point (if delivery takes place on any day beyond the original departure work period).
“The current hours-of-service and ELD requirements have significant effects on perishable produce quality and consumer safety, and contribute to higher volumes of undesirable food waste,” the petition stated. “The modifications to the hours-of-service and ELD regulations being requested would allow for a safer and timelier transport to market as rapidly as possible after harvest, which is essential for perishable fruit and vegetables.”
The coalition cited a survey from the American Transportation Research Institute that said more than 80 percent of motor carriers have experienced productivity loss in direction relation to the hours of service, as well as a study from three universities that claims there has been no reduction in crashes since ELDs became required in December 2017.
“While the hours-of-service rules are intended to make roads safer for all drivers, this research shows that unintended consequences are having significant impacts on drivers’ abilities to do their jobs efficiently and safely,” the petition stated.
If the FMCSA doesn’t modify the rules as requested, the coalition of fruit and veggie producers asks for a delay in enforcement for two to four years.
“Such a delay would allow for improvements to the rule’s compliance monitoring and more proficiently allow for the safety of perishable produce, its drivers and its transport.”
The FMCSA, meanwhile, plans to unveil in the coming months a potential rulemaking that would reform hours-of-service regulations for all commercial drivers. The agency issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking last August. FMCSA hosted four public listening sessions and received about 5,200 comments.
In its formal comments, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the agency that providing more flexibility to professional drivers will benefit highway safety.
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