By Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Relations
The NGFA is proposing a more comprehensive definition of “agricultural commodity” to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as part of the agency’s rulemaking on revising the hours-of-service (HOS) rules that apply to commercial truck drivers.
This definition is a critical element of the agricultural exemption to the HOS rules. Under the agricultural exemption, the HOS regulations do not apply to the transportation of what it defines as “agricultural commodities” by truck drivers operating completely within the current 150 air-mile driving radius. Therefore, work and driving hours are not limited and the driver is not required to use an electronic logging device (ELD) or keep paper logs.
The NGFA is helping build support among national- and state-level agricultural associations for an agricultural commodity definition that would almost fully encompass the products and processes that span agriculture. Below is a comparison of the current and proposed new definitions:
- Current Definition: Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, nonprocessed food, feed, fiber or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects).
- Proposed New Definition: Any products planted or harvested for food, feed, fuel or fiber; and any non-human living animals (including fish, insects and livestock as defined in Sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471]) and the products thereof, to include, but not limited to, milk, eggs, honey, etc.; and agricultural, forestry, aquaculture, horticultural and floricultural commodities; fruits, vegetables; and other agricultural products that are sensitive to temperature and climate and at the risk of perishing in transit; and animal feed (including ingredients); and products of preservation – products used during harvest and packing prior to processing, including but not limited to bin, boxes, jars, cans, etc.
Agriculture depends heavily on truck transportation and there are situations that require surges in trucking capacity; the agricultural exemption can provide the needed flexibility to handle these surges and ultimately reduce the regulatory cost of truck transportation.
The agricultural exemption to the HOS rules is available year-round in just 33 states. (The federal government has delegated to states the responsibility for determining when the exemption is available.) For uniformity and to limit confusion, NGFA is urging that the exemption be available year-round in all states.
If FMCSA decides to move forward with changes to the definition of agricultural commodity, the agency would open a formal rulemaking process that will involve another round of comments. NGFA will provide further updates as the process unfolds.