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Efforts to maintain safe transport of livestock has resulted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issuing final regulatory guidance regarding the agriculture commodity exemption, including less strict rules when drivers are within 150 air miles of their destination. Stock image

150 air-mile exemption provides flexibility for ag-related transportation

BISMARCK—Efforts to maintain safe transport of livestock has resulted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issuing final regulatory guidance regarding the agriculture commodity exemption, including less strict rules when drivers are within 150 air miles of their destination.

The electronic logging device rule, limiting time spent at the wheel, went into effect in December 2016, with the U.S. Department of Transportation granting the agriculture industry some temporary waivers as concerns arose over putting livestock, honeybees and perishable produce at risk if drivers were mandated to sleep while the cargo was still in the truck.

"Today's announcement details the flexibility we secured last year under FMCSA's HOS regulations for agriculture haulers," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. "The 150 air-mile exemption more closely reflects the real-world scenarios that commercial drivers face when carrying agriculture commodities and will help ensure farmers and ranchers can get their products to market safely."

Meanwhile, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp visited the Dickinson-West Stockmens' Livestock Exchange on Thursday, May 31, to discuss legislation to ease the burden of the Electronic Logging Device regulations.

At the Stockmens' Exchange, Heitkamp reported that she heard from ranchers about their concerns about the regulations during the day's livestock auction.

"Ranchers need their livestock to be transported safely and quickly, and haulers need flexibility to handle a variety of unpredictable factors, like the weather and loading times," Heitkamp said. "The new ELD regulations have caused confusion and hardship for haulers of livestock and insects, proving once again that once-size-fits-all regulations simply don't work for rural America."

Hoeven and Heitkamp also recently joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging the FMCSA to provide additional flexibility under its HOS regulations for all types of commercial drivers.

Other issues that Hoeven and Heitkamp have worked to address include asking for an exemption for loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time, an extension of the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time and granting flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.

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