FMCSA clarifies agricultural commodity definitions for farmers, commercial drivers

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a final rule clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a final rule clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, the agency announced Nov. 19. FMCSA worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the rule in an effort to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.

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“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation, and this new rule will provide clarity and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers, while maintaining the highest level of safety.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“I applaud Secretary Chao for recognizing these obstacles and working with USDA to come up with common sense definitions for agricultural commodities and livestock that meet both the needs of agricultural haulers and public safety – critical concerns for all of trucking,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source. The agricultural commodity rulemaking from FMCSA was prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.

FMCSA published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2019 to solicit feedback from the agriculture community. Based on a review of the public comments, FMCSA has published this new rule to clarify the meaning of these existing definitional terms to ensure that the HOS exemptions are utilized as Congress intended.

“Our nation’s farmers and agriculture haulers will benefit from this clarification of the rules and will be able to deliver their products in a safer and more efficient manner. These improved rules will help farmers move commodities and get food to our grocery stores. We have heard the concerns from our famers and ag haulers and we’ve worked closely with USDA and the industry to provide regulatory clarity and craft this new rule,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck.

FMCSA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate confusion and further align the agencies’ interpretations of agricultural commodity definitions.

To read the final rule on agricultural commodity clarifications, click here.

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