FMCSA issues regulatory clarification on agricultural hauling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is bringing clarity to the Hours of Service (HoS) exemptions for agricultural haulers.

The FMCSA received 566 comments and questions during a public consultation period this winter on the proposed regulatory guidance surrounding the issue and is providing answers to areas of the exemptions that were less than clear.

Comments indicated carriers were confused about HoS exemptions when dealing with unladen vehicles and were unsure whether the HoS rules applied when trucks were empty. The administration says a regulation where drivers were subject to HoS rules while in-between agricultural loads doesn’t make sense, and that the exemption also applies to unladen vehicles.

The FMCSA says it is also giving a wide interpretation to the 150 air-mile rule.

The rule states that HoS regulations don’t apply during planting and harvest time to those agricultural haulers moving product within 150 air-miles from their start point.

While some have been interpreting this rule to mean the destination must be within the 150-mile radius, the FMCSA says there is no reason that needs to be the case.

The clarification on the rule says drivers are exempt from HoS regulations from the start point of the trip to the 150 air-mile line. Once drivers are no longer 150 air-miles or less away from their destination – even if it is with the same load, in the same trip – the HoS regulations apply. The same is true for unladen vehicles returning to their start point between loads.

“The Agency disagrees that it would be impossible to determine HOS compliance outside the 150 air-mile radius. Transporters are required to maintain records of duty status and supporting documents when not operating under an exception,” they said.

Drivers are also allowed to make multiple pick-ups and drop-offs, but the 150-mile rule will continue to be measured from the first pick-up point.

Clarification on the meaning of the word “location” says that a location for the purposes of determining the 150-mile radius can mean grain silo, farm, livestock market, or other source where the produce or livestock pick-up originated.

This interpretation means that as long as the product is in it’s original form, a “source location” can mean more than just a farm or field. Once the product has been processed or changed, however, it’s pick-up point no longer qualifies.

The answers to these questions are aimed at making the law less murky, and giving clarification to both haulers and U.S. law enforcement officials.

The full text of the clarification can be read here.

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