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Ag exemption still on table for 2012

The exemption came into question in 2009 when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an interpretation of the regulations that resulted in transportation restrictions for certain farm supplies.

The Trucker News Services

12/30/2011

An agriculture exemption to truckers’ Hours of Service is still on the table for 2012 and could “maybe” be a part of a new highway reauthorization bill, says a beltway agri consultant.

The ag exemption is still “an issue,” said Fletcher Hall, of Fletcher Hall Associates consulting firm. He said safety advocacy and other groups probably will try and get the exemption stripped from the bill but it may be that other issues — such as such as how to fund the highway bill — would take priority.

There is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would clarify the waiver granted for two years in 1999 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for the distribution and transportation of anhydrous ammonia. The way it was written, it only applied to anyhydrous ammonia and no other farm supplies.

It was introduced earlier in December by Missouri Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves and amends aspects of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, which served as the basis for FMCSA's 2009 interpretation, to clarify the applicability of exemptions for agricultural products.   

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference (AFTC) of the American Trucking Associations, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) have voiced their support for an identical Senate bill that would clarify transportation regulations that are critical to the agricultural sector's ability to “expeditiously distribute farm supplies,” according to a news release from the groups.

The exemption came into question in 2009 when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an interpretation of the regulations that resulted in transportation restrictions for certain farm supplies.

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"When I visit with agricultural retailers across the country, one of the top issues they bring up as a threat to their business is the Hours of Service issue," said ARA President & CEO Daren Coppock. ... This legislation helps ensure that agricultural retailers are able to serve the needs of farmers during the busy planting and harvest seasons."

"The timely transportation of agricultural products during the busiest times of the year is of the utmost importance for our members and their customers and applaud Senators [Amy] Klobuchar and [Pat] Roberts for introducing the Senate companion to the House bill," said AFTC Chairman, John Wittington, of Grammer Industries. "This language will provide us with the flexibility to ensure those products are delivered on time." 

Specifically, the legislation clarifies that the agricultural HOS exemption is applicable t 

• Drivers transporting agricultural commodities within a 100 air-mile radius

• Drivers transporting farm supplies for agricultural purposes from a wholesale or retail business to a farm or other location where the farm supplies are intended to be used within a 100 air-mile radius from the distribution point, or

• Drivers transporting farm supplies from a wholesale location to a retail location so long as the transportation is within a 100 air-mile radius.

"This legislation will ensure that farmer co-ops can continue to meet the farm supply needs of their farmer-owners during the busiest times of the year in agriculture," said NCFC President & CEO of Chuck Conner. "We appreciate the leadership of Senators Klobuchar and Roberts in seeking to  permanently resolve this issue."

Hall said FMCSA action limiting the waiver solely to anhydrous ammonia, “made a misrepresentation of Congressional intent and only kicked the can down the road by making the waiver a two-year waiver.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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