Farmers prevail against suggested transportation regulations

Farmers can breathe easier now that the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared it will not change any federal rules that require farmers to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Earlier this year, the DOT began asking questions about CDLs in the agriculture community that led many farmers to worry that some states were about to interpret crop sharing as a commercial arrangement that would trigger a CDL.

For those reasons, the FMCSA sought comments in the Federal Register about three issues:
  • What distinguishes intra- and interstate commerce for operation of a commercial motor vehicle in a state
  • Whether a farmer transporting supplies or crops as part of a crop-sharing agreement needs a CDL
  • Whether farm equipment should be considered commercial vehicles
According to the DOT, the agency received approximately 1,700 comments expressing concern about these issues.

U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari stated that the DOT’s goal is to make sure that states don’t make any changes that go against common sense in those three areas.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that farmers will not be subjected to new and impractical safety regulations," Porcari said. "The farm community can be confident that states will continue to follow the regulatory exemptions for farmers that have always worked so well."

The DOT issued an official guidance that explains its ruling for these three issues.

DOT official guidance summary
  • Interstate vs. Intrastate Commerce: The difference between the two has been determined by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts; therefore FMCSA has limited flexibility to provide additional guidelines. If specific questions arise, FMCSA will work with the states and the industry to provide a clarification for the specific scenario.
  • Commercial Driver's License: Federal regulations allow states to make exceptions for certain farm-vehicle drivers such as farm employees and family members, as long as their vehicles are not used by “for-hire” motor carriers. After considering the public comments, the FMCSA has determined that farmers who rent their land for a share of the crops and haul their own and the landlord’s crops to market should have access to the agricultural CDL exemptions given by the states.
  • Implements of Husbandry: After considering the public comments, FMCSA has determined that most states have already adopted common-sense enforcement practices that allow farmers to safely move equipment to and from their fields. In areas where farm implements are common, the enforcement community and the agricultural community have achieved a mutual understanding about which safety regulations should apply to farm equipment on their public roads.
What are your thoughts about these issues? Was it a victory for the agriculture industry? Do you think these issues will arise again in the future?

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