Over the past year, ARA has worked closely with the DOT, USDA, Congress, and other national organizations to ensure the agricultural exemption to the hours of service rule is protected from misinterpretation. On July 9, a letter was sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asking for a permanent extension of the recently expired 90-day waiver of the hours of service (HOS) rules for transportation of anhydrous ammonia (NH3). The waiver applied to the transportation of NH3 within a 100-mile radius from terminal to retail to farm. The letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. Congressmen, also stressed that the waiver needs to include all farm supplies, as intended by Congress in the 1995 National Highway System Designation Act and reaffirmed in the 2005 Highway bill.
On July 13, ARA was informed that FMCSA was proposing a 2-year extension of the waiver, which only includes the movement of NH3. The proposal was published in the Federal Register July 14 for a comment period of 30 days. After the 30-day comment period, FMCSA will adjust the extension appropriately and issue a final proposal. Although ARA is pleased with the proposed two-year extension, by not including ALL farm supplies we believe FMCSA continues to misinterpret Congressional intent of the agricultural exemption. ARA will submit comments supporting the need to include additional farm supplies and would ask that you send specific comments regarding crucial movement of farm supplies from the DISTRIBUTION POINT to the retail facility. ARA believes that if a clear argument is made for other farm supplies such as UAN, pesticides, propane, etc., we will have a better opportunity to include additional farm supplies into FMCSA’s proposed extension.
The language submitted to the Federal Register by FMCSA explains the strong safety record of agriculture movements utilizing the 100 air-mile ag exemption and the accident-free movement of anhydrous during the 90-day waiver. The proposal also outlines the proposed terms and conditions of the exemption, including the need for all drivers to have a “satisfactory” rating or be “unrated” in order to qualify.
Comments will be due on or before Friday, August 13. It is critical for industry to send in substantive comments as safety and enforcement groups will undoubtedly be submitting comments regarding safety concerns. If you have specific examples of farm supply movements dependent on utilizing the agriculture exemption for transportation from a distribution point to the retail facility, please call 202-457-0825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, August 6. If you have questions regarding the proposed extension, please contact ARA.