Hoeven Statement on FMCSA Rule to Provide Certainty for Ag Haulers, Clarify Ag Commodity Definition

Senator has Worked to Address Challenges Faced by Agricultural Haulers

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, today issued the following statement after the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an interim final rule to clarify the definition of an agricultural commodity and livestock in the hours-of-service (HOS) regulation. DOT coordinated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the rule. This interim final rule follows the agency’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and request for public comment on revising the definitions of livestock and agricultural commodities that was issued in July 2019.  

“We continue to work to address the challenges faced by agricultural haulers and to provide relief from unnecessarily burdensome regulations and ensure that farmers and ranchers are able to get their products to market safely and efficiently,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate the Administration updating and clarifying the definition of agricultural commodity, which is important because it determines who can use the ag and livestock hours-of-service exemptions.”

Under current regulations, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, and non-processed foods from the source of the commodities to a location within 150 air miles of the source, during harvest and planting seasons as defined by each State, are exempt from the HOS requirements. The current definition of “agricultural commodity” used by FMCSA is, “any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock,” which FMCSA described as “circular and ambiguous.” The interim final rule clarifies and updates the definition of the terms “agricultural commodity”, “livestock”, and “non-processed food” as they are used in the HOS regulations.

Hoeven has worked to address the unique challenges faced by agricultural haulers. To this end, FMCSA began the process last year to provide additional flexibility for the transportation of agricultural products under the 150 air mile agricultural exemption, which the agency is working to improve at the senator’s request.

Further, Hoeven is advancing his Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act, bipartisan legislation he reintroduced last year with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to identify and remove obstacles to the safe, humane and market-efficient transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock. Specifically, the Hoeven-Bennet bill would establish a working group at the U.S. Department of Transportation comprised of representatives from the transportation and agriculture industries, transportation safety representatives and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The working group would be required to consider the impact of existing HOS and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rules on the commercial transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities and develop guidelines on reforming these rules. Within 120 days of receiving the working group’s report, the Transportation Secretary must propose regulatory changes to the HOS and ELD regulations, taking into account the group’s findings and recommendations.

The legislation would also delay enforcement of the ELD rule until the required reforms are formally proposed by the Transportation Secretary. The bill follows Hoeven’s successful efforts through the appropriations process to secure delays of the ELD rule in Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2020. The recently released Senate appropriations bill includes an additional delay for FY21.