U.S. Department of Transportation Helps American Farmers and Commercial Drivers by Clarifying Agricultural Commodity Definitions

November 19, 2020


Katelyn Parsons

Thursday, November 19, 2020

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced that it is has published a final rule clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The Agency worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this effort to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.

“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation, and this new rule will provide clarity and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers, while maintaining the highest level of safety.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“I applaud Secretary Chao for recognizing these obstacles and working with USDA to come up with common sense definitions for agricultural commodities and livestock that meet both the needs of agricultural haulers and public safety – critical concerns for all of trucking,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source. The agricultural commodity rulemaking from FMCSA prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.

The Agency published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2019 to solicit feedback from the agriculture community. Based on a careful review of the public comments, FMCSA has published this new rule to clarify the meaning of these existing definitional terms to ensure that the HOS exemptions are utilized as Congress intended.

“Our nation’s farmers and agriculture haulers will benefit from this clarification of the rules and will be able to deliver their products in a safer and more efficient manner. These improved rules will help farmers move commodities and get food to our grocery stores. We have heard the concerns from our famers and ag haulers and we’ve worked closely with USDA and the industry to provide regulatory clarity and craft this new rule,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck.

FMCSA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate confusion and further align the agencies’ interpretations of agricultural commodity definitions.

The American agriculture industry contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy.  The Trump Administration has been working to strengthen the agriculture industry by streamlining regulations, bolstering farm programs, and renegotiating the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to improve access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

To read the final rule on agricultural commodity clarifications, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers-definition-agricultural-commodity-0.

In June 2018, FMCSA announced regulatory guidance for transportation of agricultural commodities. Learn more here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/regulatory-guidance-concerning-transportation-agricultural-commodities