Proposed guidance would clarify use of the HOS agricultural exception

FMCSA cites multiple interpretations on the meaning of the provision

Posted December 21, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is giving stakeholders a month to comment on proposed hours-of-service guidance to clarify applicability to the “agricultural commodity” exception.

The guidance is limited to the transportation of agricultural commodities (see Section 395.1(k)(1)). It does not address “farm supplies for agricultural purposes” under Section 395.1(k)(2) or (3). According to FMCSA, the language of the provision is susceptible to multiple interpretations from both stakeholders and enforcement officials in different states.

The proposed regulatory guidance would clarify the exception with regard to:

  • Drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity, as defined in Section 395.2, or returning from a delivery point; and
  • Drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity.

In addition, FMCSA is asking for input on:

  • Whether grain elevators and/or livestock sale barns should be considered a “source” of agricultural commodities under Section 395.1(k)(1); and
  • How the exception should apply when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.

Comments must be received on or before January 19, 2018. The guidance would expire no later than 5 years after it is finalized.

Proposed text of regulatory guidance

FMCSA proposes the following regulatory guidance for Questions 34 and 35 to 49 CFR 395.1, “Scope of the rules in this part”:

Question 34: Does the agricultural commodity exception (Sec. 395.1(k)(1)) apply to drivers while driving unloaded to a source where an agricultural commodity will be loaded, and to an unloaded return trip after delivering an agricultural commodity under the exception?

Guidance: Yes, provided that the trip does not involve transporting other cargo and the sole purpose of the trip is to complete the delivery or pick up of agricultural commodities, as defined in Sec. 395.2. In that case, driving and on-duty time are not limited, nor do other requirements of 49 CFR part 395 apply.

Question 35: Does the agricultural commodity exception (Sec. 395.1(k)(1)) apply if the destination for the commodity is beyond the 150 air-mile radius from the source?

Guidance: The exception applies to transportation during the initial 150 air-miles from the source of the commodity. Once a driver operates beyond the 150 air-mile radius of the source, part 395 applies. Starting at zero from that point, the driver must then begin recording his or her duty time, and the limits under the 11-hour, 14-hour, and the 60-/70-hour rules apply. Once the hours of service rules begin to apply on a given trip, they continue to apply for the duration of that trip, until the driver crosses back into the area within 150 air-miles of the original source of the commodities and is returning to that source. If the driver is not returning to the original source, the HOS rules continue to apply, even if the driver reenters the 150-mile radius.

How to submit comments

You may submit comments through any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal.
  • Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.
  • Fax: (202) 493-2251.

When submitting comments, interested parties need to reference Docket No. FMCSA-2017-0360.


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