ARA: Waiver To HOS Rule Falls Short

On March 18, 2010, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) was informed by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that the hours of service (HOS) rule for transporting anhydrous ammonia would be waived for the 2010 planting season. ARA received feedback from industry leaders praising the waiver, but felt it fell short having only excluded anhydrous ammonia from the HOS rule, leaving out other crucial farm supplies. ARA and several other national trade organizations (TFI, NCFC, AFTC) continue to work closely with Congressmen Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Sam Graves (R-MO), trying to convince FMCSA that their narrow interpretation is contrary to the legislative history and Congressional intent as well as long-standing industry practice. Earlier this week, Congressmen Luetkemeyer and Graves sent a letter to Administrator Ferro requesting a follow-up meeting and help to permanently extend the waiver while allowing all farm supplies to fall under the exemption. A negative decision by FMCSA would adversely impact the delivery of farm supplies as this year’s summer and fall applications begin.

In the past several months, ARA has met with representatives from FMCSA, USDA and Congressional Members and their staff to inform them of the importance and urgency of the misinterpretation of the exemption. With the support of nearly a dozen Members of Congress, the office of USDA Secretary Vilsak and communication and understanding from Secretary LaHood, ARA was able to get a 90-day waiver from the HOS exemption rules, beginning March 22. In DOT’s letter to Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) they stated that “Our recent re-examination of the issue has made it clear that the exclusive emphasis of the Agency’s guidance on deliveries from local retailers to the ultimate farm consumer may not reflect economic reality.”

This 90-day waiver only applied to carriers delivering anhydrous ammonia, with the original interpretation of the exemption still applying to other input products. ARA commends DOT for making this decision to allow for movement of anhydrous ammonia from terminal to retailer during the 2010 planting season, but continues to recommend that transportation of all farm supplies from the terminal to the retailer should be exempted under the current rule. We will continue to work with DOT to get movement of all farm supplies along the supply chain exempt from the HOS rule during planting and harvest season, as Congress originally intended.

To access the letter from FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro to Congressman Luetkemeyer, as well as other correspondence on the issue, click here. If you have questions on the ag exemption to the HOS rule or on the DOT waiver please contact ARA at 202-457-0825 or email Jon@aradc.org.

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