A new federal mandate on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) that came into effect in 2015 has called into question what exactly defines an agricultural commodity. From December of 2015 through December of 2017, use of ELDs was voluntary. However, in December of 2017 Phase 2 of this new law mandated the use of ELDs as well as automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) through December of 2019. After December 2019, the use of ELDs will be required for all commercial haulers except for those claiming certain exemptions. At the heart of this issue for turfgrass producers and others in the agricultural industry is the definition of “agricultural commodities” as defined in 49 C.F.R 395.2. The current definition states agricultural commodities as “any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock” and its interpretation has proven vague since the new ELD mandate took effect.
As a result, TPI submitted an application for exemption to the United States Department of Transportation in December of 2018 to request that all transporters of turfgrass sod be eligible for Hours of Service (HOS) exceptions for agricultural commodities provided in U.S. Federal Code 49 C.F.R. 395.1(k)(1). This application included a public comment period that was posted to the U.S. Federal Register on June 19th, 2019. This comment period was open for 30 days and closed on July 19th, 2019. During that time, 49 turfgrass producers and other industry representatives provided public comment supporting turfgrass sod’s inclusion in the definition of an agricultural commodity. TPI also submitted a public comment on behalf of its members and cited many reasons why turfgrass sod should be granted the same exemptions as other agricultural commodities with regard to Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). These include but are not limited to:
- The United States Department of Agriculture includes sod in the Agricultural Census, and defines it as a horticultural commodity within the agricultural industry
- Title 7, Chapter 38 of the U.S. Federal Code lists turfgrass sod in its definition of Specialty Crops
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists turfgrass sod in its Worker Protection Standards
- Many state departments of agriculture consider turfgrass sod an agricultural commodity
- Turfgrass Sod is treated as agriculture by other federal agencies with regard to taxes, unemployment, occupational safety and health, federal wage-hour laws, and more.
TPI is awaiting the Department of Transportation’s decision and will announce it to our members when available. Please reach out to us if you have questions or comments, and we will be happy to help out.
Click on the link below to read all of the public comments in the U.S. Federal Register.