In the freight industry, the transportation of agricultural commodities and supplies has always been on the periphery in terms of how and what regulations apply.
Each jurisdiction dictates the level at which agricultural (ag) haulers must abide by the “Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers” regulations, however, that does not mean federal agencies like the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) don’t have a say.
Due to the constant demands on farmers and cattle ranchers, jurisdictions along with the DOT are given more leeway than average over-the-road drivers.
On June 7, 2018, the FMCSA issued an exemption from ELDs for ag haulers and provided guidance on how HOS would be calculated.
States are still responsible for setting the planting and harvest seasons and can allow year-round exemptions for ag haulers from HOS rules within their jurisdiction. States like Idaho and Montana allow for year-round exemptions if the commodity doesn’t fall under 49 CFR 372.115 (non-exempt commodities like processed or preserved foods/goods).
Read all of 49 CFR 372.115 carefully to ensure you aren’t hauling a non-exempt commodity before you use this exemption.
The HOS and ELD exemption applies to agricultural commodities hauled from the source to a location within a 150 air-miles radius from the source and the unladen trip to or from the source.
The source is considered any place where a non-exempt supply or crop is being harvested, stored, or picked up (i.e. a field or grain silo). Cattle are included in this exemption, in which case the source is considered to be a pen or grazing area.
If the driver extends their trip past the 150 air-miles radius, they must comply with HOS regulations starting at the 150 air-miles radius end location.
HOS regulations must be followed until the driver is back in the 150 air-miles radius zone, laden or not. The start of the 150 air-miles radius is the first point of pick up no matter how many pickups or drop offs occur that day.
If you don’t and you’re outside of the jurisdiction’s planting/harvesting seasons, you’ll be held to federal HOS rules. Remember, each jurisdiction determines when the planting/harvesting seasons are. Check with your local DOT or FMCSA field office to know what those dates are.