An additional 90-day waiver has been granted to the U.S. agricultural industry by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to comply with the ELD mandate.
The extension, announced by FMCSA Tuesday, cited the “unique needs of the country’s agricultural industries” in granting the extension. A first 90-day extension from the implementation of the ELD rule was to expire March 18. Full enforcement of the rule begins April 1 after a soft launch on December 18.
“Additionally, during this time period, FMCSA will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance,” FMCSA said in its statement. “FMCSA will continue its outreach to provide assistance to the agricultural industry and community regarding the ELD rule.”
Requests for comments to that possible rule change was closed last month, but the specifics can still be found at regulations.gov.
The 150 air-mile rule allows the transportation of agricultural products within a 150 air-mile radius—about 172 miles over the road—without needing ELD usage. However, the rule is considered complicated, and two FMCSA officials recently used a webinar to discuss some of its intricacies.
Reaction in the agricultural community was, not surprisingly, positive. “The current wavier, which was set to expire March 18, did not provide the necessary time for FMCSA to educate agricultural haulers as well as local carrier enforcement personnel,” Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, said in a prepared statement. “The decision to offer an additional extension also provides the agency with more time to examine this regulation and work with the agricultural community to address some of our concerns related to ELD’s and hours of service regulations.”
The National Pork Producers Council, in its statement, spelled out some of the specific reasons why an ELD rule might have particular difficulties in the livestock sector. NNPC said it had asked for the extension in a request to FMCSA administrator Raymond Martinez. “Because livestock such as pigs are vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures, long-established industry standards preclude drivers from stopping while hauling animals, and that could run them afoul of the ELD and Hours of Service rules,” NNPC said.
The Hours of Service rule that limits driver time on the road is not new and has not been changed. However, the assumption in the industry is that the more precise record-keeping of the ELD will make getting around it difficult, and in turn costly if fines are incurred.
The FMCSA release announcing the extended waiver took the opportunity to tout current levels of compliance with the rule. Roadside compliance with the record-keeping rule, which also allows non-ELD devices, such as an Automatic On-board Recording Device (AOBRD), reached 96% in roadside checks in “the most recent available data.”
The clarification of the rule for the agricultural sector also will involve answering concerns about the “personal conveyance” rule, which involves the use of a truck as personal transportation rather than as a hauler of freight.