DOT Issues Interim Final Ruling on Sod as Agriculture

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced on November 24th, 2020 an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on agricultural commodities as defined in the U.S. federal transportation code 49 CFR 395.2. Recent mandates on Electronic Logging Devices have caused confusion among truck drivers, farm owners, and enforcement officials as to who can or cannot claim important agricultural exemptions relative to Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). TPI has been working with the FMCSA on this issue since December 2018 to make sure that U.S. sod haulers get included in these important agricultural exemptions. “We are pleased to announce to the industry today that this new ruling removes any ambiguity around whether or not sod is an agricultural commodity”, says Dr. Casey Reynolds, TPI’s executive director.

“Our members have expressed to TPI how important these exemptions are and we have been working behind the scenes on their behalf since 2018 to make sure they are able to get their perishable products to market. We want to thank the officials at the FMCSA for their time, support, and transparency as we navigated the federal rule-making process.”

“This is a classic example of the value and importance of trade associations like TPI and the many state associations who work on behalf of sod farms”, says Dr. Reynolds. “We could not perform this type of work without the membership dues paid by our members, and we thank them for their support.”

The official summary and the new ag commodity definition as stated in the announcement are listed below. TPI will submit comments on behalf of the sod industry but any producer willing to submit public comments can do so as well through the link below. Comments must be submitted on or before December 24, 2020.

FMCSA Summary of the Ruling

FMCSA clarifies the definition of the terms “any agricultural commodity,” “livestock,” and “non-processed food,” as the terms are used in the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of the Agency’s “Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers” regulations. Under current regulations, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, from the source of the commodities to a location within 150 air miles of the source, during harvest and planting seasons as defined by each State, are exempt from the HOS requirements. Furthermore, the HOS requirement for a 30-minute rest break does not apply to drivers transporting livestock in interstate commerce while the livestock are on the commercial motor vehicle. This interim final rule (IFR) clarifies the meaning of these existing definitional terms to ensure that the HOS exemptions are utilized as Congress intended.

This IFR defines agricultural commodities under 49CFR 395.2 as follows:

49CFR 395.2 Definitions.

Agricultural commodity means:
(1) Any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock as defined in this section.

(2) As used in this definition, the term “any agricultural commodity” means horticultural products at risk of perishing, or degrading in quality, during transport by commercial motor vehicle, including plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees.

Click “Read More” below to see the full announcement in the U.S. Federal Register as well as instructions on how to submit public comments.

About the Author

Casey Reynolds, PhD
Dr. Casey Reynolds is the Executive Director at Turfgrass Producers International

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