FMCSA sends ag hauler rule to White House for review
October 2, 2020
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is moving forward with a rule regarding the hours of service in relation to the transportation of agricultural commodities.
An interim final rule was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review on Wednesday, Sept. 30. OMB allows for up to 90 days for review. If cleared, the rule will be published in the Federal Register and made public.
Back in July 2019, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public comments on the definitions of “agricultural commodity” or “livestock” in the hours-of-service regulations.
After an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the typical next step is for an agency to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking. However, the FMCSA has elected to move forward with an interim final rule in this instance.
According to the Federal Register, an interim final rule is defined as:
When an agency finds that it has good cause to issue a final rule without first publishing a proposed rule, it often characterizes the rule as an “interim final rule,” or “interim rule.” This type of rule becomes effective immediately upon publication. In most cases, the agency stipulates that it will alter the interim rule if warranted by public comments. If the agency decides not to make changes to the interim rule, it generally will publish a brief final rule in the Federal Register confirming that decision.
FMCSA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking accepted public input until Sept. 27, 2019.
The agency said the notice was prompted by indications that the current definitions of “agricultural commodity” and “livestock” may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the ag haulers’ hours-of-service exemption applies.
“FMCSA has worked closely with the agriculture industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in crafting this advance notice,” then-FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in July 2019. “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.”
The agency received 145 comments on the notice. Many of those comments, which came mostly from agricultural associations and individuals, supported efforts to provide clarity and consistency to the definition and exemptions.
OOIDA said it supported updating and harmonizing the definition of “agricultural commodity” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The definition should include any and all species and/or products that fall under the current ELD exemption as approved by Congress,” OOIDA wrote. “The agency can provide more clarity to commercial motor vehicle drivers who transport such commodities, the motor carriers who employ them, growers or distributors of those commodities, and enforcement personnel by updating and harmonizing this definition.”
Ag haulers bill
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act this week. The bill would eliminate the requirement that hours-of-service exemptions for ag and livestock haulers only apply during state-designated planting and harvesting seasons. It would also amend and clarify the definition of agricultural commodities and authorize a 150 air-mile exemption from hours-of-service requirements for ag and livestock haulers. LL