Playing by New Rules

Updated hours of service regulations and what they mean for growers and shippers

Published online: Aug 08, 2018 Articles
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This article appears in the 2018 IGSA Yearbook/Convention Program.

On May 30, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued updated guidance on the hours of service (HOS) exemption for agricultural commodities. While much of this guidance was aimed at the livestock hauling industry, produce was addressed as well.

The FMCSA issued clarifications on three important aspects of produce related HOS exemptions:

 1.      What products are covered?

FMCSA made clear that products that meet the definition of an agricultural commodity in 49 CFR 395.2 are covered provided they are not processed “to such an extent that it is no longer in its original form.” The definition cited reads: “Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects).”

 2.      What are the rules around the 150-air-mile radius exemption area?

FMCSA makes clear that hours of service rules do not apply when a driver is within the 150-air-mile radius of the source of the covered agricultural commodity. Immediately upon exiting this area, HOS must be recorded and logged either by ELD, AOBR or paper log as per existing rules.


3.      What are the rules around multiple pick-ups that could extend the 150-air-mile radius?

FMCSA clarifies that the 150-air-mile radius for HOS exemption is to be measured only from the first pick-up point. Once a truck is completely unloaded, a new trip and a new exemption period can begin.

Grower/shippers should keep in mind that it is a driver’s responsibility to maintain compliance with HOS rules and that simply because an exemption is allowed, it does not mean that a driver is obligated to use the exemption. Drivers are required to follow a myriad of FMCSA regulations, including those found in §1214 regarding driver fatigue that reads:

“No driver shall operate a motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle.”

While this guidance will provide drivers greater flexibility in regards to HOS with freight that is challenging regarding loading and unloading timetables, this new guidance in no way comments on how this clarification could or should impact market rates.

As is always the case, C.H. Robinson is here to support this conversation in your business, and we are more than happy to pull in resources to provide further detail and information to your supply chain and transportation teams.

If you have a question regarding whether your products qualify, you can email FMCSA at agricultural@dot.gov.