By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc
WASHINGTON, July 7 –Facing pressure from at least 18 U.S. Senators and numerous requests from farmers and agribusinesses who are concerned about their tractors and other vehicles being treated like commercial vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its public comment period on a series of proposed new guidelines for farm vehicle safety from June 30 to Aug. 1.
Farm vehicle drivers have long been exempt from certain commercial driving regulations for trips of 100 miles or less. They do not need to obtain commercial driver's licenses, carry medical documents showing they are fit to drive or limit their hours on the road as commercial drivers do.
However, some states implement the rules in different ways and in a May 31 notice, the FMCSA sought to clarify the rules. They requested public comment on:
(1) previously published regulatory guidance on the distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce in deciding whether operations of commercial motor vehicles within the boundaries of a single State are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations;
(2) proposed guidance on the relevance of the distinction between direct and indirect compensation (cash rent or crop share) in deciding whether farm vehicle drivers transporting agricultural commodities, farm supplies and equipment as part of a crop share agreement are subject to the commercial driver's license regulations; and,
(3) proposed guidance to determine whether off-road farm equipment or implements of husbandry operated on public roads for limited distances are considered commercial motor vehicles. The Agency indicated the guidance would be used to help ensure uniform application of the safety regulations by enforcement personnel, motor carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers.Farm advocates are concerned about states that determine that a farm vehicle driver working in a crop share agreement is a contract carrier and therefore required to have a Commercial Driver’s License. Defining farm vehicle drivers and/or tractors or other implements of husbandry as CMVs would result in farmers and ranchers losing cost-saving exemptions, they say.
The FMCSA proposes to issue new regulatory guidance to address farm implements, consistent with the approach used for off-road motorized construction equipment. The agency concluded that applying strict, literal readings of the definitions of ―commercial motor vehicle and ―motor vehicle to agriculture would be impractical and ―produce no discernible safety benefits.
Under the agency’s proposal, farm tractors, combines, cotton module builders, planters and cultivators would not be subject to the same highway safety rules as CMVs. To download and read a copy of the proposed guidance, click HERE.
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