FMCSA considers changes to HOS agriculture definitions

September 13, 2019

Mark Schremmer

|

FMCSA’s plan for hours-of-service reform isn’t the only rulemaking involving hours of service.

In addition to the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking that aims to provide more flexibility, FMCSA also issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks public comment regarding the definitions of “agriculture commodity” or “livestock” in the hours-of-service regulations.

The proposal published in the Federal Register on July 29. FMCSA is accepting comments until Sept. 27.

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from hours-of-service requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150 air-mile radius. FMCSA said the notice is prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the exemption applies.

“FMCSA has worked closely with the agriculture industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in crafting this advance notice,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a news release. “We have heard concerns from the industry, and we are acting. 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.”

The current definition of “agricultural commodity” refers to “any agricultural commodity, nonprocessed food, feed, fiber or livestock.”

FMCSA defined “livestock” as “cattle, elk, reindeer, bison, horses, deer, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, fish used for food, and other animals designated by the Secretary of Agriculture.” In 2018, Congress amended the definition by removing the term “fish used for food” and adding “llamas, alpacas, live fish, crawfish, and other animals that are part of a foundation herd or offspring.” The amended version also removed the secretary of agriculture’s discretion.

The agency said it believes the current term for “agricultural commodity” is ambiguous and that the livestock definition is incomplete.

Eleven questions are included in the advance notice. Among the questions are if FMCSA should consider adopting a list of specific agricultural commodities and if the list of animals in the current “livestock” definition is adequate.

Comments may be submitted to the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-0348.

Of course, that is not the only hours-of-service rulemaking that truck drivers are encouraged to give their feedback on.

On Aug. 22, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register that included five main changes to the hours of service.

  • The limits for short-haul operations would increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision would allow a driver up to a 16-hour window within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving if the driver encounters adverse conditions.
  • The 30-minute break requirement would be modified, prohibiting driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least one 30-minute change in duty status. This would allow 30 minutes of on-duty, not driving time, off-duty time, or sleeper-berth time to qualify as a break.”
  • In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers would be allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3.
  • Drivers would have the option of stopping the clock a minimum of 30 minutes and up to three hours consecutively once per duty period.

Comments can be made until Oct. 7.

A public listening session on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C. A livestream of the event can be viewed here.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.