The National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA) this week urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to clarify the agricultural commodity exception to its hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers.
In its statement submitted in response to FMCSA's request in the Dec. 20, 2017, edition of the Federal Register seeking input on the "Proposed Regulatory Guidance Concerning the Transportation of Agricultural Commodities," NGFA urged FMCSA to clarify that grain elevators, feed and feed ingredient manufacturers, biofuel companies, grain and oilseed processors and millers and livestock and poultry integrators are a source of agricultural commodities eligible for the exception.
"It is imperative that U.S. freight laws and regulations accomplish their goals without disadvantaging U.S. agriculture, given the highly competitive global marketplace that exists for agricultural products," the statement said. "Having access to a highly efficient freight transportation system and a pool of qualified drivers is critical for U.S. agriculture's competitiveness."
Specifically, NGFA said the agricultural commodity exception should apply to all facility types within the agricultural supply chain to prevent additional financial harm.
In addition, for drivers operating under the agricultural commodity exception, NGFA recommended that FMCSA apply the hours-of-service regulations only to situations in which a driver operates beyond the 150-air mile radius. Under NGFA's recommendation, commercial truck drivers transporting agricultural commodities would not be required to maintain logs until exceeding the 150-air mile radius.
Finally, to prevent unnecessary regulatory burden and excessive costs, NGFA urged FMCSA to exempt from the electronic logging device (ELD) requirement drivers who transport predominantly agricultural commodities.
"Most NGFA members operate under the agricultural commodity exception and, therefore, are exempt from hours-of-service requirements for all or most of the year, depending upon their state's definition for planting and harvesting seasons," the NGFA statement said, which also noted that requiring ELDs to be purchased for use during the non-planting and harvest seasons -- when demand for truck transportation has eased -- is nonsensical and inconsistent with President Donald Trump's executive order to reduce regulatory burdens.
NGFA said will keep working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA "on additional solutions to address the needs of our industry while continuing to protect the safety of the nation's highways," the statement concluded.