Truck photo from Pork Checkoff

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced additional steps to address the unique needs of the country’s agriculture industries and provided further guidance to assist in the effective implementation of the Congressionally-mandated electronic logging device (ELD) rule without impeding commerce or safety.

The Agency is announcing an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the ELD rule for agriculture related transportation.  Additionally, during this time period, FMCSA will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance.  FMCSA will continue its outreach to provide assistance to the agricultural industry and community regarding the ELD rule.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.

Since December 2017, roadside compliance with the hours-of-service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been steadily increasing, with roadside compliance reaching a high of 96 percent in the most recent available data.  There are over 330 separate self-certified devices listed on the registration list.

Beginning April 1, 2018, full enforcement of the ELD rule begins.  Carriers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out-of-service. The driver will remain out-of-service for 10 hours in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria.  At that point, to facilitate compliance, the driver will be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop and should not be dispatched again without an ELD.  If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action. 

The waiver and guidance will be published in the Federal Register.

For more information on ELDs, please visit: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/eld.

Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue gives statement

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for her announcement of an additional 90-day extension of the agriculture exemption from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. Agricultural compliance with the mandate would have been problematic for the agriculture industry because the devices do not accurately account for the agricultural exemptions currently provided in the law.

The ELD rule went into effect in December 2017, with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granting the agriculture industry an initial exemption that was set to expire on March 18, 2018.

With the granting of another extension, the agriculture industry will now have additional time to comply.

Secretary Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:

“The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”

“Current ELD technologies do not recognize the hours-of-service exemptions for agriculture that are in federal law. This is a classic example of a one-size-fits-all federal regulation that ignores common sense to the detriment of sectors like agriculture.

“I applaud Secretary Chao for recognizing these obstacles and giving extra time for compliance while DOT issues guidance. While public safety is a critical concern for all of trucking, the safety of living agricultural commodities in transport must also be considered.”

National Pork Producers Council appreciates extension

In September 2017, NPPC petitioned the agency for a waiver and exemption from the requirement, and DOT provided an initial 90-day waiver – until March 18 – from the mandate for livestock haulers. A final decision on NPPC’s request for an exemption still is pending.

ELDs, which can cost from $200 to $1,000 plus a $30-$50 monthly fee, record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, miles driven and location information. They electronically report that data to federal and state inspectors and supposedly help the DOT enforce its Hours of Service regulation. That rule limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again.

But because livestock such as pigs are vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures, long-established industry standards preclude drivers from stopping while hauling animals, and that could run them afoul of the ELD and Hours of Service rules, NPPC argued in asking DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Raymond Martinez for the waivers.

“The U.S. pork industry is grateful to DOT Secretary [Elaine] Chao and FMCSA Administrator Martinez for this additional waiver from the ELD rule, which poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “This will provide the department and Congress additional time to find a solution that meets the unique needs of livestock haulers.

“Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling regardless of any regulation.”

BACKGROUND: Agriculture haulers operating within 150 air miles of the source of their agriculture products or livestock do not have to comply with DOT’s hours-of-service regulation, which limits driving hours to only 11 hours after being off duty for more than 10 consecutive hours. For more information on the hours-of-service exemption for agriculture shipments, visit this U.S. DOT webpage: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/eld-hours-service-hos-and-agriculture-exemptions.

For more information on agriculture commodities that are transported to domestic and foreign markets, visit this USDA webpage: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/transportation-analysis.