FMCSA clarifies agricultural commodity definitions, increasing HOS flexibility

On November 19, 2020, the FMCSA announced that it had published a final rule clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service regulations.

The rule has been in the works for quite some time, as the agency began to take comments for potential changes back in July of 2019. 

However, the FMCSA also issued regulatory guidance back in June of 2018. While the agency was able to provide some flexibility, the guidance ultimately did not address the meaning of the term agricultural commodity. 

Fast forward over two years, and it seems like farmers and commercial drivers will finally have the flexibility they’ve been looking for under the updated short-haul exemption. While other forms of hauling will find flexibility within ELD rules, agricultural haulers who are exempt should still have minimal use for electronic logging devices as a whole.

The short-haul exemption was examined and updated in the latest HOS changes, which officially went into effect on September 29, 2020. The exemption was expanded to 150 air-miles and allows a 14-hour work shift.

However, the additional clarifications by the FMCSA also provide more benefits for truckers and farmers, which you can find below. Per the FMCSA:

  • “Under current regulations, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, from the source of the commodities to a location within 150 air miles of the source, during harvest and planting seasons as defined by each State, are exempt from the HOS requirements.”
  • “HOS requirement for a 30-minute rest break does not apply to drivers transporting livestock in interstate commerce while the livestock is on the commercial motor vehicle.”

The FMCSA also explained that the reason for the changes was prompted by “indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.”

According to Land Line, plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees can be considered an “agricultural commodity” as part of the new clarification. 

Additionally, insects, aquatic animals, and other animals cultivated, grown, and raised for commercial purposes can be defined as “livestock.” 

Lastly, fresh fruits, vegetables, cereal, and oilseed crops with little processing can be defined as “unprocessed foods.”

The final rule on the topic is set to take effect on December 9, 2020, according to the FMCSA. 

So, what do you think about the updated ruling? Let us know in the comments or on social media!