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DOT seeks input on revisions for farmers, commercial drivers

Agency focused on eliminating confusion and aligning agricultural commodity definitions across government.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced July 22 that it is seeking public comment on revising agricultural commodity or livestock definitions in Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, saying it has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.  

“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation, and we look forward to receiving input that will help clarify these definitions, improve safety and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the current HOS regulations “impose restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities.”

He added, “We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chao on revising these regulations.” 

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 advanced rule authored by 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 has worked closely with the agriculture industry and USDA in crafting this advanced notice. We have heard concerns from the industry, and we are acting,” FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez said. “We encourage all [commercial motor vehicle] stakeholders, especially those involved in transporting agricultural commodities and livestock, to provide valuable feedback on how the current definitions impact safety, compliance and enforcement.”

FMCSA said it continues to work closely with USDA to eliminate confusion and align the agencies’ agricultural commodity definitions.

The American agriculture industry contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy. The Trump Administration has been working to strengthen the agriculture industry by streamlining regulations, bolstering farm programs and renegotiating the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement with the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to improve access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

Additional information on the advance notice of public rule-making, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available here.

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