Administration clarifies agricultural trucking issues
Truckers carrying fresh produce and other agriculture commodities aren’t bound by hours-of-service rules if they’re within a 150-mile radius of where they picked up the load.
Also, truckers whose clocks run out while waiting to be loaded or unloaded can use “personal conveyance” (counted as off-duty) while seeking a place to sleep without violating the hours-of-service rules.
Since a federal mandate to use electronic logging devices went into effect in December, questions about those two situations were rife in the transportation industry. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 31 cleared the air with two documents clarifying the rules.
“It clarifies quite a bit, which we were glad to see,” said Ken Gilliland, director of international trade and transportation for Western Growers.
He said the FMCSA confirmed that even if a load is a long-distance shipment of fruits and vegetables, hours-of-service (HOS) rules kick in only after the truck passes a 150-mile air radius. Then the ELD starts counting.
The federal guidance also gives a broad definition to “source” of agricultural commodities, including fields, coolers and packing sheds, Gilliland said.
Gilliland said empty trucks driving to a loading spot qualify for the 150-mile air-radius exemption.
“These documents provide much-needed clarification on the rules surrounding transportation of ag cargo and the rules around the ag exemptions for electronic logging devices,” Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, said in an e-mail to members.
Clarity and flexibility
“Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department (of Transportation) has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a news release on the documents released May 31.
Under a summary provided by the agency, the regulatory guidance clarifies the applicability of the “agricultural commodity” exemption.
It clarifies when the exception applies in regard to:
- Drivers in unladen vehicles traveling to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery;
- Drivers on trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the commodity;
- Determining the “source” of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and
- How exceptions apply when commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.
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