20 Nov U.S. DOT Amends Rules for Ag Haulers
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released an interim final rule on the definition of agricultural commodity for use in determining which agricultural products are eligible to be hauled under the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truck drivers. Because of the agricultural exemption, HOS regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities by truck drivers operating completely within the 150 air-mile radius. Therefore, work and driving hours that occur within 150 air-miles of the source of the origin are not counted toward a driver’s daily driving limit of 11 hours or on-duty limit of 14 hours.
The agricultural exemption and the definition of agricultural commodities are important to our industry because heavy reliance on truck transportation with situations that require surges in trucking capacity. The agricultural exemption can provide the needed flexibility to handle the surges.
In 2019 when the FMCSA began the rulemaking process about 100 national- and state-level agricultural associations submitted comments advising that the agricultural commodity definition should nearly encompass all products and processes that span agriculture. Below is a comparison of FMCSA’s previous and new definitions for agricultural commodity:
Previous Definition of Agricultural Commodity: Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects).
New Definition in the Interim Final Rule: Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock as defined in this section. As used in this definition, the term ‘any agricultural commodity’ means horticultural products at risk of perishing, or degrading in quality, during transport by commercial motor vehicle, including plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees.
Livestock means livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C.1471], as amended, insects, and all other living animals cultivated, grown, or raised for commercial purposes, including aquatic animals.
Non-processed food means food commodities in a raw or natural state and not subjected to significant post-harvest changes to enhance shelf life, such as canning, jarring, freezing, or drying. The term ‘non-processed food’ includes fresh fruits and vegetables, and cereal and oilseed crops which have been minimally processed by cleaning, cooling, trimming, cutting, chopping, shucking, bagging, or packaging to facilitate transport by commercial motor vehicle.”
The new definition of agricultural commodity will go into effect 15 days after publication of the interim final rule, which means the new definition will be in effect sometime during the first week of December. FMCSA is providing 30 days for the public to submit comments on the interim rule, and changes to the interim final rule may be made based on the comments.
It is still being determined if feed ingredients, such as soybean meal and dried distillers’ grains with solubles would be eligible for the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service rules based on the new agricultural commodity definition. National Grain and Feed Association plans to submit comments urging FMCSA to define feed as animal food, including animal food ingredients, to try and ensure feed ingredients are eligible to be transported under the agricultural exemption to HOS rules.