Ag Exemption To Hours-Of-Service Rules Would Change Under Senate Bill

US Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on transportation and safety, recently introduced legislation to amend the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 to modify certain agricultural exemptions for hours of service requirements, and for other purposes.

The Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act is supported by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and National Grain and Feed Association.

In a letter to Fischer, the organizations noted that the HAULS Act would make “three important incremental changes” to the agricultural exemption to hours-of-service rules that the groups support and believe would help accommodate the seasonal spikes in the transportation of food, fiber and other agricultural supplies.

The first change would eliminate the “planting and harvesting periods” requirements to ensure uniformity within all states. Most states already have adopted a year-round agricultural excemption, given the diverse range of crops and modern agricultural practices that result in truck movements throughout the year, the organizations noted.

The second would provide a 150-air-miles exemption from hours-of-service regulations on the back end of hauls before hours-of-service rules apply. This builds on the current exemption for the beginning of hauls at the “source” and would add the term “destination.”

Third, the organizations support the proposed update of the definition of an agricultural commodity for purposes of determining eligible freight for the agricultural exemption. The legislation would revise the definition of the term “agricultural commodity” to include, among other things, any nonprocessed product planted or harvested for food, feed, fuel, or fiber; any nonhuman living animal, including livestock, and the nonprocessed products of those living animals, including milk; and animal feed, including the ingredients of animal feed.

“This language provides the ag community with continued flexibility during the busiest times of the year, while expanding uniformity and clarity for the transportation of our nation’s ag products,” said Jon Samson, executive director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference.

“Farmers and ranchers must be able to get their crops and livestock to market efficiently and safely. The HAULS Act modernizes trucking regulations to meet the needs of our members. I applaud Senator Fischer for her leadership on this important issue and I look forward to working with her to get the HAULS Act enacted into law,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

By expanding the agricultural exemption to trucking hours-of-service rules, the HAULS Act “would greatly increase the rules’ usefulness for agricultural haulers across the country. Moreover, the bill’s addition of feed ingredients would make more agricultural products, such as soybean meal and distillers grains, eligible for the agricultural exemption and create more consistent trucking rules,” said Randy Gordon, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association.

“For years livestock haulers and producers were unduly burdened with hours of service regulations that do not take into account the unique difficulties that these drivers face every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further illustrated how ...

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