Truck drivers operating in the U.S. are overseen by many state and federal regulations including a federal Hours-of-Service limitation. The current Hours-of-Service regulations have been in effect since 2011 and they limit the number of hours a trucker can drive before being required to take a break. In general, those limits are 14 hours in total, with a maximum continuous driving time of 11 hours (3 hours of break time would be assumed during that 14 hour total), followed by 10 hours of off-duty time. There are also maximum weekly hour limitations. Up until December 2017, a driver’s time has been recorded via paper logs that can be reviewed by federal or state regulators. However, the ELD new mandate requires those logs to be in electronic form, generated by “Electronic Logging Devices” installed in each truck.
AGRICULTURE AND HOURS-OF-SERVICE
Due to the perishable nature of agricultural cargo, the Hours-of-Service regulations contain an agricultural exemption. This exemption is in effect during each state’s designated planting and harvest seasons and is constrained by a 150-mile distance from the “source” of an agricultural commodity. The time that a trucker operates within 150-miles of that “source” is exempt from the Hours-of-Service regulations and therefore will not count against the 14-hour limit nor the weekly limits.
The way each state regulator views the definition of the “source” of an agricultural commodity will have a material impact on the flexibility of this exemption. A narrow definition that pertains only to a farm will be much different than a source defined as a packing house, grain elevator, livestock sale barn, etc.
CONCERNS OVER ELD RULE
During the comment period on the proposed rule and in subsequent communications with DOT, industry and state officials have expressed concern over the implementation of this rule. A coalition of State Attorneys General raised issues that DOT had no program in place to verify the suitability of the privately-manufactured ELDs to perform the tasks that the rule requires. Additionally, an association representing smaller trucking operators in the U.S. raised cost concerns about the devices themselves. They indicated their view that the rule was tailored to large trucking companies and would disadvantage their smaller competition.
Organizations representing agriculture raised concerns over the unclear definition of “source” of the agricultural commodity and the inability of certain ELDs to recognize the 150-mile ag exemption. Without that ability, the exemption effectively wouldn’t exist for any trucker with a deficient ELD.
90-DAY WAIVER As these voices became louder and trucking rates began to skyrocket, DOT delayed implementation of the ELD mandate for the agriculture industry. On December 14, 2018, they instituted a waiver for truckers carrying “agricultural commodities” that relieves them of the responsibility to comply with the ELD final rule until June, 2018.
Due to the concerns regarding technological deficiencies, ambiguous definitions and the responsibility for these regulations to be interpreted by at least 50 different state regulators, NPC has requested that this waiver be extended. NPC is joining Western Growers, the United Fresh Produce Association and the American Trucking Association’s Agriculture & Food Transporters Conference in requesting a two-year extension.
REQUEST TO DOT AND CONGRESS
The ELD rule is simply a way of providing more accurate data about compliance with the existing Hours-of-Service rule. To provide the agriculture industry and state regulators time to address both the ELD rule and the confusion it has revealed about the underlying Hours-of-Service regulations, Congress should urge DOT to take the following actions:
- Extend the ELD agricultural waiver for two full years to December 2019.
- Clearly define packing houses, storage facilities and other primary points of aggregation as a “source” of an agricultural commodity.
- Allow maximum flexibility for multiple points of loading within the 150-mile agriculture exemption area and clarify that unloaded trucks driving to pick up an agricultural commodity should be covered by that exemption.
- Outside of the 150-mile ag exemption area, truckers should not be penalized for time spent idling or marshalling in the parking lot of a distribution facility or port facility waiting to unload. This type of activity is distinctly different than time spent engaged in over-the-road driving.
Updated March 20, 2018