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FMCSA seeks comment on clarification of ‘agricultural commodities’

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Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is asking for input on an interim final rule that clarifies the definitions of the terms “any agricultural commodity” and “livestock” in the agency’s hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers.

Current regulations call for exemptions in HOS requirements during harvesting and planting season in each state. Drivers are exempt in a 150-air-mile radius from the source of that agricultural commodity.

Published in the Nov. 24 Federal Register and effective Dec. 9, the interim final rule acknowledges the ambiguity of current regulations while amplifying the agency’s interpretation. The rule states that “horticultural products subject to perishability or significant degradation in product quality during transport” by commercial motor vehicle – such as sod, flowers, seedlings, live trees and Christmas trees – fall under the parameters of “any agricultural commodity.”

Additionally, FMCSA expands the scope of the definition of “livestock” to include “all living animals cultivated, grown or raised for commercial purposes.” Previously, the agency did not include aquatic animals under this description.

“Our nation’s farmers and agriculture haulers will benefit from this clarification of the rules and will be able to deliver their products in a safer and more efficient manner,” FMCSA acting administrator Wiley Deck said in a Nov. 19 press release. “These improved rules will help farmers move commodities and get food to our grocery stores. We have heard the concerns from our farmers and ag haulers, and we’ve worked closely with [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] and the industry to provide regulatory clarity and craft this new rule.”

 

FMCSA in July 2019 issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking requesting comment on whether to clarify or revise the definitions, receiving 140 responses. In June 2018, the agency issued guidance intended to clarify both the agricultural commodities exemption and the “personal conveyance” provision in HOS regulations.

Comments on the interim final rule are due Dec. 24. FMCSA states that it “will consider and address submitted comments in the final rule that will follow this IFR and may make changes to the rule in response to comments received.”

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