FMCSA offers clarification on ELD, HOS regulations for ag haulers

Ag haulers, take a look.

FMCSA offers clarification on ELD, HOS regulations for ag haulers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published new clarification on fuzzy Hours of Service and ELD regulations for agricultural haulers.

You can read the full text of the FMCSA’s clarification notice below.

Generally, the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) covers transportation in interstate commerce, in vehicles with a gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating, or a gross combination weight or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more. In addition, vehicles with a gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating; or a gross combination weight or gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more may require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). 

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do provide an exception for the transportation of horses and other animals to shows and events, as well as cars, boats and other similar items. In these cases, when the transportation in question is not business related (neither for compensation, nor where the driver is engaged in an underlying business related to the move), none of the regulatory requirements apply, even if prize or scholarship money is offered. This includes the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, requirements for Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and CDL regulations, unless required by the driver’s home state.

Availability of Agricultural Exemptions 

Congress provided four statutory exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that may apply to agricultural operations:

  • Covered farm vehicles of 26,001 pounds or more operated by a farmer or an employee of the farmer are exempted from the HOS and CDL regulations if the vehicle is operated anywhere in the State of registration or across State lines within a 150-air mile radius of the farm or ranch with respect to which the vehicle is being operated. Covered farm vehicles of 26,000 pounds or less are exempt throughout the country.
  • Drivers who transport agricultural commodities within a 150-air mile radius of the farm or ranch with respect to which the vehicle is being operated are exempted from the HOS regulations. FMCSA has recent published proposed guidance on the use of this exemption.
  • Drivers who transport commercial bees in interstate commerce are exempted from the HOS regulations 30-minute break requirement if there are bees on the vehicle.
  • Drivers who transport livestock in interstate commerce are exempted from the HOS regulations 30-minute break requirement if there is livestock on the vehicle.

In addition, for certain times during drivers’ operations when they are not under dispatch or involved in the transportation of an agricultural commodity, hours driven may be considered personal conveyance and not counted against the daily and weekly limits. Further explanation can be found in the recently published proposed guidance on personal conveyance.

General Applicability of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (including ELD and HOS)

If the vehicle or combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), a gross combination weight rating (GCWR), a gross vehicle weight (GVW), or a gross combination weight (GCW) of 10,001 pounds  or more and the operation is not otherwise excepted as described above, then the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply.

ELD Exceptions

There are several ELD exceptions that could apply to a carrier’s operation, including, but not limited to the following:

  • The exception for preparing a logbook found in 49 CFR 395.1(e) for those drivers who operate solely within a 100-air mile radius of their normal work reporting location and work no longer than 12 hours each day, also applies to ELDs.
  • Vehicles that are older than model year 2000.
  • Drivers who are only required to complete paper records of duty status for eight (8) days or fewer in any 30-day period. 

Recording HOS when Transporting an Agricultural Commodity

When a driver operates a vehicle under an agriculture exemption outside of the designated air-mile radius of the farm or ranch with respect to which the vehicle is being operated and the driver does not qualify for a limited ELD exemption, the driver may use one of the following two options to record their HOS on an ELD:

Option 1

A driver can operate within the 150-air mile radius without logging into the ELD and log into the ELD once they have reached the 150-air mile radius limit. The drive time that takes place within the 150-air mile radius will be identified on the ELD as “unidentified driving” time. The driver will reject the unidentified driving on the ELD and the motor carrier must make an annotation to the ELD data explaining that the “unidentified driving” is driving time that occurred while operating under an agriculture HOS exemption.

Option 2

The driver can log into the ELD upon coming on duty and identify the time operating within the 150-air mile radius by making an annotation on the ELD stating that the vehicle was operating under an agriculture HOS exemption.

In the case where it is determined that the driver is required to use an ELD, the safety official will review the ELD data by transferring the data to the Electronic Records of Duty Status (eRODS) software using the telematics or local transfer option. If the ELD data cannot be transferred, the safety official will review the data by viewing the ELD display screen or printout. In accordance with the ELD rule, the ELD is not required to identify driver violations and the driver remains accountable at all times for their non-compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations HOS rules. 

General Applicability of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements:

A CDL is required if:

  • The vehicle has a GVWR or GVW of 26,001 pounds or more; or the vehicle is
  • A combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) with a GVWR or GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds.

However, if the vehicle is being used for a non-commercial purpose, such as recreational vehicle, or a vehicle that is involved in transportation similar, such as transporting horses and other animals to shows and events, as well as cars, boats and other similar items, a CDL may not be required, unless it is required by the State Licensing Agencies. If the underlying business is not related to that transportation, then it is considered non-commercial. This includes any unrelated agricultural business, such as a cattle rancher that owns horses for personal use, unrelated to that cattle ranch.

Employers and drivers who transport horses and other animals to shows and events, as well as cars, boats and other similar items, in a vehicle that has GVWR or GVW of 26,001 pounds or more; or the vehicle is a combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) with a GVWR or GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds, must comply with the licensing requirements with their State, which may or may not require a CDL.

In addition, a State may, at its discretion, exempt operators of farm vehicles from the CDL requirements. The use of the farm vehicle waiver is limited to the driver’s home State unless there is a reciprocity agreement with adjoining States.

How to Determine if a Driver is Required to have a CDL

If a safety official stops a CMV transporting an agricultural commodity, to include non-processed foods, feed, fiber, or livestock, the FMCSA recommends that the driver explain that the transportation is agricultural related. If it is determined that a driver is engaged in non-agricultural related transportation or the driver does not qualify for an agricultural exemption, FMCSA recommends that the driver use the following questions to determine if they are required to have a CDL:

  1. Is the vehicle being used for a non-commercial purpose, such as taking a personally owned animal to a show when the underlying business is unrelated?

If YES, a CDL is NOT required.

  1. Does the vehicle have a GVWR or GVW (whichever is greater) or is it a combination (truck and trailer) with a GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 10,001 pounds or more?

If NO, a CDL is NOT required.

  1. Does the vehicle have a GVWR or GVW (whichever is greater) or a combination vehicle (truck and trailer) with a GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 10,001 pounds or more, but less than 26,001 pounds?

If YES, a CDL is NOT required. 

  1. Does the vehicle have a GVWR or GVW (whichever is greater) of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination vehicle (truck and trailer) with a GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 26,001 pounds or more, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR or GVW of 10,000 pounds or more?

If YES, a CDL MAY be required. 

For more information regarding the ELD rule, visit FMCSA’s ELD webpage. Questions can be submitted to [email protected]