The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) trucking electronic logging device (ELD) mandate took effect December 18, according to Tal Coley, Director of Government Affairs at AmericanHort.
Perhaps the biggest issue affecting the grower community, Coley says, centers around the agricultural exemption, which exempts certain transporters of agricultural commodities from the Hours of Service rules. It applies to carriers that deliver agricultural commodities within a 150-mile radius of the source of commodities, as well as to the delivery of supplies and equipment for agricultural use from a wholesale or retail distribution point. However, Coley says the exemption is plagued with ambiguity.
Production of nursery and greenhouse crops is properly considered agriculture under a wide array of federal statutes and regulations. However, it is unclear if this exemption applies to this industry.
The vague definition of agricultural commodity that was chosen for the legislation is causing compliance confusion for several agricultural sectors, not just horticulture, Coley says. The rules, as published in the Federal Register, define agricultural commodity as “any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as defined in Section 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects).”
The AmericanHort advocacy team has met with officials at the FMCSA and USDA to press for a clearer definition that properly recognizes nursery and greenhouse crops as agricultural commodities.
As of late December, the issue is still unresolved. However, FMCSA has issued a notice of proposed regulatory guidance to clarify the definition of agricultural commodity. The public may comment for 30 days by going to Regulations.gov and putting the docket number FMCSA-2017-0360 in the keyword box and clicking “Search.”
Check with AmericanHort to keep tabs on this evolving issue.