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hours of service

Hours of Service Update for AG Truckers 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has worked closely with the USDA to clarify rules and definitions regarding livestock and agricultural commodities in its hours-of-service (HoS) regulations. Most notably, it has issued a 150 air-mile exemption. According to the FMCSA, the agricultural rule making “was prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HoS exemption applies.” Here’s a breakdown of the new HoS terms and some elaboration on how the exemption will affect motor carriers. 

Defining Terms And Boundaries  

An “air-mile” is equivalent to 172.6 miles and is roughly used to account for the shortest distance between two points regardless of the terrain. Essentially, if a driver stays within this radius while transporting certain agricultural commodities, they are exempt from HoS regulations. Drivers do not have to use an ELD because they are not required to keep logs of their hours.  

An interview conducted by FleetOwner further clarifies the exemption. Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, describes which activities the exemption covers and what happens if a truck carrying agricultural commodities travels outside of the 150 air-mile radius. “Any of the time that takes place working within that 150-[air]-mile radius is not counted toward the driver’s hours of service,” he said. “That includes empty miles driven to a pick-up point, it includes loading time, and it includes the time driving with an agricultural commodity within a 150-[air]-mile radius of the source.”  This applies to the full round-trip (before and after drop-off). 

A truck may arrange multiple stops to pick up agricultural commodities, but under the FMCSA’s rules, those stops do not count as a new source point.

The mid-point of the radius is placed on the map when the commodities are picked up. This point is officially termed the “source.” The driver is then covered under the exemption at any point within the 150 air-mile radius of the initial load in. There can be only one source per trip. A truck may arrange multiple stops to pick up agricultural commodities, but under the FMCSA’s rules, those stops do not count as a new source point. Therefore, drivers will not have to log their hours when making additional loading stops within the 150 air-mile radius of their initial source.

What Happens When Drivers Leave The Radius? 

When a driver hauling ag crosses into the 151st air-mile from the original source, HoS rules apply, and the clock starts at zero hours. This can provide a significant extension to the workday. Drivers who re-enter the exemption radius from the original pickup should note that their routes re-enter the timeless zone.  

Drivers do not necessarily have to resume the use of their ELD when they re-enter territory subject to HoS regulation. 

Here’s where it gets a little confusing. Drivers do not necessarily have to resume the use of their ELD when they re-enter territory subject to HoS regulation. This ELD exemption could apply. A driver can forego the use of an ELD in favor of paper logs if they only need to record hours of service for 8 out of any 30 rolling calendar days. Since this rolling period is cHoSen at the driver’s discretion, a driver could craftily choose which 30-day window to use. The goal would be to choose any 30 days during which they left the exemption radius on fewer than 8 separate days. Using this approach, a driver would not have to obtain an ELD. 

The Implications: Some Pros & Cons 

It enables ambitious drivers to log more miles.

Since the HoS regulations are meant to limit the maximum number of hours drivers are allowed to be on duty while also mandating the number and length of rest periods, the revision made on June 1, 2020, has raised some safety concerns. Extending the workday to such extremes helps farmers move their commodities and supports grocery stores. It enables ambitious drivers to log more miles. It also effectively rolls-back the safety efforts made by the HoS to protect driver alertness through the use of ELDs in December 2017. Safety groups like The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) have warned federal regulators that their actions make agricultural haulers vulnerable to fatigue. They additionally expressed concern over the ambiguity of what defines an “agricultural commodity” between the FMCSA and the USDA. While the FMCSA cited this as the revision’s primary goal, there are still many practical gray areas.

In order for drivers to remain compliant, CVSA has insisted that the FMCSA should make changes as follows: 

  • Specify that drivers of mixed load cargo hauls do not meet the definition of an agricultural commodity for transport  
  • Provide clearly stated guidelines on the extent to which a raw agricultural product can be altered before it has to be claimed as a cargo of processed goods 
  • Require drivers to still use their ELDs to record hours driven under the exemption as a result of hauling livestock or agricultural commodities 

The key to navigating these regulations is to understand exactly how the exemptions work. Especially as the United States begins its produce season, ensuring that these time-sensitive goods reach their destination in a timely manner is critical.

#BGInvestigates: How Regulations Affect the Transportation Industry

The transportation industry is no exception when it comes to government regulations. In the coming year, many regulations will be enforcing drastic changes in the transportation industry. These changes will impact the bottom line of truck drivers, carriers, shippers, consignees and even consumers. As regulations increase, trucking companies are forced to increase shipping costs, in turn, driving the cost of products in the market to rise. BG Investigates points out why it’s important to be aware of new industry laws and regulations.

Many transportation regulations are highly controversial in regard to their costs and effectiveness. Specifically, the CSA 2010 law was passed in December of 2010 and remains a top concern. According to the FMCSA, a part of the US Department of Transportation, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative is a regulation that is working to further reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. The trucking industry (including common carriers) feel the impact of this regulation as drivers are taken off the road due to safety concerns. Although this helps to increase safety, the loss of truck drivers due to CSA regulations has caused driver and capacity shortages.

“We are really starting to see the impact (of CSA 2010) in the industry right now. Every day we are seeing carriers that are being rated down to conditional and last week we saw five carriers shut down by the DOT for unsafe ratings. Obviously that increases the capacity constraints we have in the market by reducing the amount of drivers on the road and causes an increase in rates,” says Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services.

The debate continues on many other government policies. The Hours of Service regulations published in December 2011 were enforced to control the amount of hours a driver can be in operation. The HOS rules cause changes in the current transit times for shipments, as drivers are not able to travel as long. There are severe penalties for both the driver and carrier for violations. Industry groups argue that these regulations should change before they officially go into effect July 1, 2013.

BG Investigates uncovered the following transportation industry regulations that all readers should be aware of for 2012 and beyond:

  • Stability Control Standards – Technology mandate controlling stability on heavy-duty tractors to preventing rollovers of trucks and trailers.
  • Mandatory Speed Limiters – Controlling the speed of trucks to prevent accidents.
  • Crashworthiness Standards – Standards, similar to automobiles, that help protect truck drivers involved in accidents
  • EOBR RegulationsElectronic on-board recorders tracking the time truck drivers are on the road.

The laws and regulations of the transportation industry are constantly changing. Whether you are a truck driver, carrier, shipper, consignee or consumer, you should consistently be informed to be compliant and understand the effects it may have on your business model.  BG Investigates will continue looking and reporting the status of new transportation laws and regulations that affect you, so keep an eye out for future articles. Contact one of our knowledgeable representatives at BlueGrace Logistics with any questions about industry regulations or call 800.MYSHIPPING.

– Ben Dundas, Sr. Marketing Analyst

Not the end of Hours of Service (HOS) Rules Changes

Who has seen the new HOS (Hours of Service) rules that just came out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)? The trucking industry has been waiting to see what the FMCSA was going to do with the HOS rules that they currently operate under. I am not going to get into the details of the changes, but I am going to make this point. If trucking was so unsafe that the FMCSA had to get together to make changes to the law, then why did they make the effective date start 1.5 years in the future? Personally it does not seem to be that big of a safety issue if drivers are going to continue to operate under the same rules till July 2013 before they have to change.  With the Millions of drivers on the road that is a lot of unsafe driving till July 2013.

If we are going to make change, let’s change. I said I am not going to let you know the details and the main reason is because the rules will change before this ever goes into effect.

Trucking Industry be aware. This is not the end of the HOS rules changes. More to come!!!

– Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services
Twitter: @BGtruckload