OOIDA to FMCSA: Update ‘agricultural commodity’ definition

September 27, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports having the FMCSA harmonize the definition of “agricultural commodity” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Friday, Sept. 27, OOIDA filed formal comments to the agency in response to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public comment about the definitions of “agricultural commodity” or “livestock” in the hours-of-service regulations.

“The definition should include any and all species and/or products that fall under the current electronic logging device exemption as approved by Congress,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer.

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 was 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, non-processed 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.

“The agency can provide 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,” OOIDA wrote.

Read the Association’s full comments here.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, 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.