In a press release sent out late last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made public its new regulatory guidance that explains the150 air-miles hours-of-service ag commodity exemption as well as further clarifying the “personal conveyance” provision.
The May 31 release quoted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, who said, “Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors.”
In December 2017 FMCSA published Federal Register notices proposing regulatory guidance for the transportation of ag commodities/personal conveyance and at that time requested public comment. The May 31 release said, “FMCSA is providing clarity on the use of the agricultural exemption and personal conveyance to both industry and law enforcement along with providing as much flexibility as possible for the industry while maintaining safety.”
Also quoted was FMSCA Administrator Ray Martinez, who said, “We are dedicated to finding effective solutions to challenges, exploring new opportunities for innovation and constantly seeking ways to improve.”
Approximately 850 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register dockets on the proposed guidance, and the new regulatory guidance “is developed within a clear, questions-and-answers format and explains the 150 air-mile radius agricultural commodity exemption and how the ‘source’ of the commodity is determined.”
You can find a copy of the guidance at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ag-commodity-guidance.
Likewise, the new regulatory guidance outlines – and includes numerous examples – under what circumstances a commercial motor vehicle driver may operate the truck or bus for personal conveyance. In a summary, FMCSA said, “FMCSA announces regulatory guidance to clarify the applicability of the ‘Agricultural commodity’ exception in the ‘Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers’ regulations.
“This regulatory guidance clarifies the exception with regard to: (1) drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point; (2) drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity; (3) determining the ‘source’ of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and (4) how the exception applies when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.
“This regulatory guidance is issued to ensure consistent understanding and application of the exception by motor carriers and State officials enforcing HOS rules identical to or compatible with FMCSA’s requirements.”
It reads in part, “The Agency agrees that the§395.1(k)(1) exception should apply to all portions of a round-trip involving agricultural commodities that occur within the 150 air-mile radius of the source, regardless of whether the CMV is loaded or empty or whether the destination is outside the150 air-mile radius.
“The Guidance in Question 34 to § 395.1 is revised to this effect.
“2. Loads beyond a150 air-mile radius (Question35): The Agency recognizes that some enforcement personnel and other stakeholders have interpreted the agricultural commodity exception as inapplicable to any portion of a trip if the destination exceeds150 air-miles from the source.
“Under that reading, the word location’ in § 395.1(k)(1) is interpreted as reflecting only the final destination of the load. FMCSA considers the statutory language, as amended, and the implementing regulation 2 to be ambiguous, given the legislative intent to create an exempt zone with a radius of 150 air miles. The Agency believes that a narrow interpretation is unwarranted.
“In the proposed regulatory guidance (Question 35), the Agency stated that ‘location’ means the outer limit of the exception distance, i.e., 150 air-miles from the source. Thus, the Agency proposed to interpret the exception as available to a driver transporting agricultural commodities for a distance up to 150 air-miles from the source, regardless of the distance between the source and final destination or place of delivery. Upon crossing the 150 air-mile point, however, the driver would be subject to the HOS rules for the remainder of the trip to the destination. The hours accumulated within the 150-mile radius are not counted toward the driver’s hours of service. Returning empty, the driver would be subject to the HOS rules until returning within the 150 air-mile radius in which the trip began.”
For a copy of the personal conveyance guidance, go to https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/personal-conveyance-guidance.