FMCSA Issues Guidance on Agricultural Exemptions


IMTA --- In the past year numerous IMTA members have asked a multitude of questions concerning agricultural exemptions.  In response to many similar questions across the country, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published guidance on exemptions to the hours of service (HOS) regulations when transporting agricultural commodities.

49 CFR 395.1 provides exemptions from the HOS rules for carriers transporting ag commodities (including livestock, bees, and other commodities) during planting and harvest seasons (dates as determined by the state) within a 150-mile radius from the source of the commodities. The same provision applies to the delivery of supplies and equipment for agricultural use from a wholesale or retail distribution point.

Since the HOS regulations do not apply within a 150-mile radius, work and driving hours are not limited and the driver is not required to use an Electronic Logging Device. In an operation where drivers share vehicles equipped with ELDs, a driver that is always exempt can use an “Exempt Driver” account.

Once a driver operates beyond the 150-mile radius, the HOS regulations apply. Therefore, starting at the time and location where the driver leaves the 150-mile radius area, the driver is subject to the hours of service regulations and must maintain logs using an ELD, unless the driver or vehicle is normally exempt from the ELD requirement. The driver must work and drive within the limitations of the HOS rules once they have left the 150-mile radius, but time spent working within the 150-mile radius does not count toward the driver’s daily or weekly limits.

Once a driver leaves the 150-mile radius they should log into their ELD and annotate that any unassigned miles accumulated prior to that point were exempt miles.

We want to remind our members that this is the current FMCSA guidance on these exemptions for carriers and drivers when transporting agricultural commodities. FMCSA is presently reviewing the interpretation of these exemptions and they may be subject to changes at some point in the future.

As always, use exemptions with safety and common sense in mind. Fatigued drivers can contribute to crashes, so drivers need to be counselled that they should alert their supervisor when they become fatigued or need a break. Their safety is the most important thing in operating a truck. We want them to arrive to your customer on time, safely, and alive.

For more information please contact our office at (515) 244-5193.