( File photo )

Truckers carrying fresh produce and other agriculture commodities aren’t bound by hours-of-service rules if they’re within a 150-mile radius of where they picked up the load.

Also, truckers whose clocks run out while waiting to be loaded or unloaded can use “personal conveyance” (counted as off-duty) while seeking a place to sleep without violating the hours-of-service rules.

Since a federal mandate to use electronic logging devices went into effect in December, questions about those two situations were rife in the transportation industry. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 31 cleared the air with two documents clarifying the rules.

“It clarifies quite a bit, which we were glad to see,” said Ken Gilliland, director of international trade and transportation for Western Growers.

He said the FMCSA confirmed that even if a load is a long-distance shipment of fruits and vegetables, hours-of-service (HOS) rules kick in only after the truck passes a 150-mile air radius. Then the ELD starts counting.

The federal guidance also gives a broad definition to “source” of agricultural commodities, including fields, coolers and packing sheds, Gilliland said.

Gilliland said empty trucks driving to a loading spot qualify for the 150-mile air-radius exemption.

“These documents provide much-needed clarification on the rules surrounding transportation of ag cargo and the rules around the ag exemptions for electronic logging devices,” Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, said in an e-mail to members.

Clarity and flexibility

“Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department (of Transportation) has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a news release on the documents released May 31.

Under a summary provided by the agency, the regulatory guidance clarifies the applicability of the “agricultural commodity” exemption.
It clarifies when the exception applies in regard to:

  • Drivers in unladen vehicles traveling to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery;
  • Drivers on trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the commodity; 
  • Determining the “source” of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and 
  • How exceptions apply when commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.

The documents are available at the FMCSA website. For the 150-mile rule, see this; and personal conveyance circumstances are here.

Submitted by Bill Kercher on Tue, 06/05/2018 - 15:02

From Page 13, Guidance to Question 36..."The location may be any intermediate storage or handling location away from the original source at the farm or field, provided the commodity retains its original form and is not significantly changed by any processing or packing."

"Packing" would imply that this exemption does not apply once fruits or veggies are packed into their retail or foodservice shipping cartons/crates/RPCs.

Is this the correct way to interpret "packing" or does the exemption still apply as the commodities have not been significantly changed and retain their original form?

Sadly this brings up more questions than it solves.

Submitted by Tom K on Tue, 06/05/2018 - 16:09

Good question ... Perhaps packing of whole commodities would be acceptable while value-adding processing would not. Are there others that have insights on this ?

In reply to by Bill Kercher (not verified)