By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, March 08th, 2018

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a 90-day waiver to the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule for livestock and agricultural commodity haulers in response to a multi-party petition by agricultural groups. The waiver is set to expire on March 18, 2018. Agricultural groups are now awaiting the agency’s response to a second petition they’ve filed, which seeks another waiver and limited exemption from the ELD rule for agriculture before the March 18 waiver expiration date. There is also talk that Congress will delay the ELD rule for agriculture, as proposed by H.R. 3282, but time is running out for a legislative fix.

The ELD rule, which became effective last December 18, requires commercial haulers to utilize electronic technology that automatically records hours-of-service (HOS) data rather than using the current practice of recording data on paper logs. Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to adopt regulations requiring ELD use in commercial motor vehicles that are involved in interstate commerce and operated by drivers who are required to keep records of duty status (RODS). The purpose of the rule is to create a safer work environment for drivers by making it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share the data.

The intent of the 90-day waiver for agriculture was to provide the agency more time to clarify the rule’s applicability to agriculture, which included considering agricultural exemptions from the rule. Agricultural groups also asked the agency to review and clarify the HOS, RODS and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exemptions for agriculture. While it hasn’t yet responded to the second petition to extend the ELD waiver, the FMSCA did recently provide additional explanations of the ELD rule’s application to agriculture, along with clarifications of HOS and CDL requirements. That information is available on the agency’s website.

How does the ELD rule apply to agriculture?

Here’s a summary of the FMSCA’s explanation of how the ELD rule applies to agricultural situations:

  1. The following are “agricultural exemptions” from HOS regulations, which would also remove the vehicle or driver from the ELD rule:
  2. “Covered farm vehicles,” which means vehicles that are:
    • Registered in a state with a license plate or other designation that allows law enforcement to identify it as a farm vehicle;
    • Operated by the owner or operator of a farm, or an employee or family member of the owner or operator;
    • Used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery, or supplies to or from a farm;
    • Not used in for-hire motor carrier operations;
    • 26,000 pounds or less and operating anywhere in the country, or 26,001 pounds or more and operated anywhere in the state of registration or operated across state lines within a 150-air mile radius of the farm.
  3. Drivers who transport agricultural commodities, including livestock, live fish and bees, within a 150-air mile radius of the farm.
    • Once a driver operates beyond the 150-air mile radius, HOS regulations apply and the driver must use an ELD for movement beyond the 150-air mile mark.
    • Note that FMCSA has recently published proposed guidance on this exemption for vehicles traveling to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point and for trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity. The proposed guidance is here.
    • Also note that drivers transporting commercial bees or livestock in interstate commerce are exempt from the HOS 30-minute break requirement when bees or livestock are on the vehicle.
  4. If a vehicle or a combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) has 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, FMCSA regulations generally apply to the driver but the driver is not subject to the ELD rule in the following situations:
    1. A driver operates within a 100-air mile radius of the normal work reporting location and works no longer than 12 hours per day. This is the same exception that applies to preparation of a logbook.
    2. A driver uses paper RODS no more than 8 days in any 30-day period.
    3. A vehicle is older than model year 2000.
  5. Non-business related transportation of horses and other animals:
    1. The ELD rule does not apply to the transportation of horses and other animals to shows and events, as long as the transportation is not business related or for-hire (even if prize and scholarship money is offered).
    2. Note that FMCSA has recently updated its guidance for non-business related transportation of horses, available here.

What if the ELD rule applies to an agricultural situation?

Drivers who are subject to the new ELD rule must understand and be able to use ELDs by the required deadline, which FMCSA states includes knowing how to annotate and edit RODS, certify RODS, and collect required supporting documents. Drivers must also know how to display and transfer data to safety officials when requested. For information about meeting the ELD requirements, visit the FMSCA’s ELD page.

For more information on FMCSA regulations and agriculture

Learn more about the ELD rule and other FMCSA regulations that might apply to agriculture in this excellent publication by our colleagues, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet at Texas A&M and Beth Rumley at the National Agricultural Law Center: Outline for Analyzing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation: Applicability for Agriculture.