On August 5th, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published in the federal register that they have determined sod to be agriculture and as such U.S sod haulers can claim important Hours of Service (HOS) exemptions as part 49 CFR 395.1(k)(1), commonly referred to as the 150 air-mile radius rule. This ruling comes on the heels of two years of collaboration between the FMCSA and TPI which began in 2018 after several TPI members reported to us that they were experiencing confusion among local law enforcement officials as to which crops can or cannot claim important agricultural commodity exemptions. Much of this began when a new mandate on Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents was published in the federal register in 2015 under Docket No. FMCSA-2010-0167.
This mandate established minimum performance standards for ELDs and required their use for documenting hours of service after the full compliance date took effect on December 16th, 2019. While the rule and the date seemed clear, it was often unclear among truck drivers and law enforcement officials with regard to who could claim agricultural exemptions relieving them of HOS and electronic logging devices (ELD) requirements. The FMCSA’s agricultural commodity definition in 49 CFR 395.2 defines agricultural commodities as “Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects)”. However, modern agriculture includes many other commodities outside of food, feed, fiber, or livestock that are commonly recognized as agriculture by other federal and state entities. This confusion caused many agricultural associations, including TPI, to reach out to the FMCSA directly for clarity.
TPI’s executive director, Dr. Casey Reynolds, and TPI’s policy consultant Jonathan Moore met with FMCSA officials in November 2018 to discuss this topic. “After almost two years of working with the FMCSA, we are pleased to announce to U.S. sod farmers that they can in fact claim important agricultural commodity exemptions for getting their perishable products safely to market”, says Dr. Reynolds. “We appreciate and respect the time and efforts of FMCSA officials and thank them for their accessibility, cooperation, and transparency throughout this entire process.”
The official announcement can be found in the U.S. Federal Register at the link below. Note that the ruling may seem confusing, as it states that the action by FMCSA is a denial of application for exemption (from TPI) as moot. The reason for this is that FMCSA analyzed our application, public comments, and applicable law and they determined that turfgrass sod is an agricultural commodity already subject to the HOS exemption, so the exemption was unnecessary, therefore moot. TPI’s application was submitted under 49 CFR 381 – Waivers, Exemptions, and Pilot Programs with the intent of requesting that FMCSA include turfgrass sod in the definition of an agriculture commodity.
For more information on this important ruling, please consult the resources below or call our office and we will be happy to discuss it with you. TPI members can also download this announcement and the full list of exemptions from the TPI member portal for their drivers to keep in their trucks. These documents help in determining which exemptions apply when hauling agricultural commodities as well as making them available for sharing with local enforcement officials if needed.
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The official announcement can be found in the U.S. Federal Register at the link below.
Hours of Service of Drivers: Turfgrass Producers International; Application for Exemption https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/05/2020-17087/hours-of-service-of-drivers-turfgrass-producers-international-application-for-exemption