FMCSA Extends ELD Waiver for Transporters of Agricultural Commodities, Promises New Ag Guidance
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By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting & ELD Consultant to PeopleNet

On March 13, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced its intent to extend, for another 90 days, the current 90-day waiver from the use of ELDs for agricultural commodity truckers.  FMCSA issued the first 90-day Ag ELD waiver late last year, and made that waiver effective from December 18, 2017 through March 18, 2018.  With the expiration date of that waiver approaching, and two related initiatives not yet completed (more on this below), FMCSA decided to extend the Ag commodity waiver until June 18, 2018.  It’s important to highlight that carriers transporting agricultural commodities (as defined by FMCSA) are exempt from ELDs during the waiver period regardless of the distance traveled. 

To operate under the waiver, agricultural commodity carriers must meet a few “terms and conditions” imposed by FMCSA.  These carriers must:

  1. Comply with all other applicable requirements of the Agency’s safety regulations (49 CFR parts 390-399), including the preparation of records of duty status (RODS) for operations subject to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules, the record retention requirements associated with RODS, and HOS-related supporting documents;
  2. Have a “satisfactory” safety rating from FMCSA, or be unrated;
  3. Provide their drivers with a copy of the Federal Register notice about the waiver, and drivers must present it to motor carrier safety enforcement officials upon request; and,
  4. Notify FMCSA within 5 business days of any DOT-recordable accident involving any of its drivers operating under the terms of the waiver. FMCSA’s waiver notice lists the accident-related information that must be reported to the Agency.

Also, in its March 13 announcement, FMCSA said that the new 90-day waiver period extending through mid-June will allow the Agency to publish “additional transition guidance” to assist in the “…effective implementation” of the Congressionally-mandated ELD rule.

So what does this mean?  Well, the Agency committed to publishing “final guidance” on two, separate HOS topics:  (1) the “agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption,” and, (2) what constitutes “personal conveyance,” and how that operating status may be used by drivers with ELDs.

While both of these topics are important, new FMCSA guidance explaining how the agricultural 150 air-mile HOS exemption can be properly applied by agricultural haulers, and how it should be enforced by State and local inspectors, is critically important to the Ag sector of trucking.  If written effectively, this new FMCSA guidance will answer many lingering questions about the Ag 150 air-mile HOS exemption like, ‘what exactly is an agricultural commodity?’, ‘what is a source of the commodity?’, and ‘does the exemption apply if a carrier has multiple drop points of a single commodity?’

Stay tuned to the PeopleNet ELD resource page for an explanation of this new guidance when issued by FMCSA.

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