With comments due by Jan. 29, there’s a spirited debate going on the wisdom of an exemption from hours of service regulations for haulers of agricultural commodities.
In late December, the Agricultural Retailers Association requested an exemption on behalf of its members from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requirement that motor carriers and their drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) use an electronic logging device to record the driver hours-of-service.
According to a summary of the exemption request, the Agricultural Retailers Association said the ELD requirement imposes undue economic and other burdens on its member retailers and distributors of farm-related products and services.
The association believes that ELDs fail to properly record the complex hours of service data, are not properly certified by the FMCSA, and do not provide appropriate cyber-security safeguards. The association also contends that ELDs will not function properly in many locations in rural America because of poor internet and cellular connectivity.
Of course, the group says the operations of its members under exemption from the ELD requirements will achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the proposed exemption.
In taking comments on the Agricultural Retailers Association request, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration opened the floodgates, mostly from haulers of livestock.
Here are a few comments from www.regulations.gov on the idea:
* "Hours of service are not fair or reasonable for agriculture. Our costs on shipping potatoes are set to almost double because we are not close enough or not far enough to make it work. We send seed potatoes into the Columbia Basin. You can’t just stop your truck when hours run out because they would likely freeze in February, March and April when we ship. Please consider the financial and physical impact on farmers and ranchers across the country. We don’t get to pass the cost along like big trucking companies can. We need an honest exemption. "
* "With regard to transportation of agriculture products the current regulations do not take into account the variables that arrive within the transportation of our nations agriculture products. Simply put there needs to be a committee comprised of people in the agriculture transportation industry to do an in-depth study that accurately portrays all the variables that arise in the day to day movement of agricultural products."
* "No ELD exemption should be granted. The hours of service are exactly the same as they have been for years. By granting exemption you are only rewarding those who abuse the hours of service laws. The hours of service laws are put in place to protect public safety."
* "ELD’s are bringing the true problem of the trucking industry to the forefront. The HOS rules are the real problem. Men and women cannot be operated like machines. The whole idea of starting and stopping a clock is ridiculous when safety is the concern. The professional driver, which is federally licensed as such, is the only person that can decide if they are sleepy or not. Sleepy driving is what causes accidents and professional drivers know this. They should be allowed, at any time during a trip, to go into the sleeper and take a break without being penalized. Before ELD’s, professional drivers could fudge this time on their paper logs and make everything work to ensure they weren’t driving sleepy. They knew they could get a falsifying ticket by doing this, but taking someone's life because they were sleepy was not an option. I’m sure that many of you who are reading this have never spent weeks out on the road driving a truck. I have and I can tell you that life and death decisions are made hourly. If the professional driver makes a bad decision, someone can die! I’m not being dramatic, it comes with the territory of handling a large, heavy vehicle around other traffic. Everyone wants professional drivers to be sharp and attentive as possible to ensure everyone’s safety, so we must let our professional drivers run to the hours that fit them, not what a log book(especially an electronic one) tells them they have to run."
* "Keep the ELD, but allow the 14-hour clock to stop. When a driver stops, stop his 14-hour clock. Allow him to rest for 3 hours, stop the clock for that 3 hours and then let them go on with their trip. The problem is the shippers and receivers. Drivers have 14 hours to complete their day, yet shippers make them wait to load a product, sometimes for up to 6 hours. Allow those waiting hours as time off and stop the clock."
* "So from what I see the ELD is forcing a driver to rest when he isn’t tired and has to drive when he is tired! This will create more unsafe conditions than ever. If a driver is on a time limit he or she will be pushed to the point of driving too fast not stopping to eat not being relaxed. All these things create stress which will cause unsafe driving! Professional drivers know there limits and will stop and rest when they get tired."
* "I agree that this exemption should be granted. Our food supply is critical in need, and the way that it is delivered is critical as well. By this I mean timing, and in whatever conditions that present, such as out in the field, at alternate pickup points, with a deviation for inspection, and so on. To add the not-quite-ready-for-consumption ELD mandate is irresponsible. By mandating ELDs for this group, we are prioritizing compliance over safety. We are risking our food supply, that we count on to be fresh and secure. The truth is that trucking is very diverse, and that when an operation is operating safely, they will not necessarily continue as such with another regulation - particularly one as onerous as the ELD mandate."
TK: Every objection by haulers of livestock could be voiced by haulers of fresh produce. For the sake of the produce industry supply chain, let’s hope that any exemption from the electronic logging device mandate, or any modification of the hours of service rules - if granted to haulers of livestock - also is applied to cover haulers of fresh produce.