WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration May 31 made good on its promise to issue a new guidance clarifying the 150 air-miles Hours of Service (HOS) agricultural commodity exemption and providing additional explanatory detail of the “personal conveyance” provision.
“Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the department has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations for the agricultural and other sectors,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
FMCSA in a news release stated the agency is providing clarity on the use of the agricultural exemption and personal conveyance to both industry and law enforcement while providing as much flexibility as possible for the industry and also maintaining safety.
“We are dedicated to finding effective solutions to challenges, exploring new opportunities for innovation and constantly seeking ways to improve,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez.
Regarding the personal conveyance issue, FMCSA revised its guidance on this December 19, 2017, and requested comments.
Of the nearly 400 responses received, some 240 were from individual drivers, with the remaining ones coming from companies, associations, safety organizations and two states, the agency said.
FMCSA recognized that much of the pressure concerning hours result from delays in loading and unloading.
The agency said that by its nature, personal conveyance of the CMV is an off-duty status and therefore, doesn’t impact 11- or 14-hour limitations for truck drivers, the 60/70-hour limitations or the 34-hour restart.
FMCSA agreed that a truck’s movement from a shipper or receiver to the nearest safe resting area may be considered as personal conveyance “regardless of whether the driver exhausted his or her HOS as long as the CMV is being moved only to let the driver get to a safe place to take the required hours of rest.”
The agency recommended that the driver also “annotate on the log” if he or she can’t park at the nearest location and must go on down the road to find a location that does have parking space.
The coercion rule, the agency said, was intended to protect drivers from their carriers, shippers, receivers or transportation intermediaries “who threaten to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation [of] the FMCSRs, Hazardous Materials Regulations and the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations.”
The agency also said if a federal, state or local law enforcement official requires the driver to relocate the CMV during the 10-hour break period, it “does not require a restart of the rest period.”
However, the agency added, “the CMV must be moved no farther than the nearest reasonable and safe area to complete the rest period.”
They also said the driver doesn’t have to return to the previous on-duty location.
“Enhancing operational readiness” is considered by the agency to be any movement of a CMV that provides a commercial benefit to the motor carrier and therefore isn’t considered personal conveyance.
The guidance clarifies the agricultural exception on several points: drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point; drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity; determining the “source” of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and how the exception applies when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip. This regulatory guidance is issued to ensure consistent understanding and application of the exception by motor carriers and state officials enforcing HOS rules identical to or compatible with FMCSA’s requirements.
FMCSA published Federal Register notices proposing regulatory guidance for the transportation of agricultural commodities and the use of personal conveyance in December 2017 and requested public comment.
Nearly 850 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register dockets on the proposed guidance pertaining to the transportation of agricultural commodities and to the personal conveyance provision.
The new regulatory guidance is presented in a question-and-answer format and explains the 150 air-mile radius agricultural commodity exemption and how the source of the commodity is determined.
The new regulatory guidance also outlines and includes numerous examples of under what circumstances a commercial motor vehicle driver may operate the truck or bus for personal conveyance.
In their comments on the guidance, both the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) supported the ability of an agri hauler to be included in the 150 air-mile exemption whether or not the truck was loaded or unloaded, since even unloaded, the entire purpose of the trip is to complete the pick-up or delivery of an agricultural commodity.
FMCSA agreed that the exemption should apply to all portions of a trip within the air-mile radius.
The agency also noted in the new guidance that the 150 air-mile radius portion doesn’t apply during “planting and harvesting periods, as determined by each state … ,” nor do maximum driving and on-duty time for drivers during those periods.
In the agency’s view, multiple commodity pick-ups are allowed but the 150 air-mile radius will continue to be measured from the first pick-up point regardless of the number of times agri goods are loaded or off-loaded.
FMCSA added that the exception applies to transportation during the initial 150 air-miles from the source of the load, regardless of the distance to the final destination. But, they also said once the driver goes beyond the 150 air-mile radius he or she is then subject to the HOS rules. And that HOS continues to apply until the driver crosses back into the 150 air-mile radius.