[Federal Register: July 5, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 128)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
[Docket No. FMCSA-2007-28480]
Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Standards: National
Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) Application for Exemption
AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of application for exemption; request for comments.
SUMMARY: FMCSA announces that it has received from the National
Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) an application for an
exemption from the commercial driver's license (CDL) requirements. NAAA
requests that commercial motor vehicle drivers working with
agricultural aircraft operators be exempt from the required knowledge
and skills tests and be eligible to receive a restricted CDL. NAAA also
requests an exemption to allow these restricted CDL holders to
transport fuels used to power agricultural aircraft engines if
transported in quantities of 1,000 gallons or less. NAAA believes that
relief from the CDL regulations will relieve a current economic
hardship and will provide parity in the CDL regulations compared to
other, nearly identical farm-related services. NAAA believes that the
evidence provided in the exemption request demonstrates that the level
of safety achieved under the exemption would be equal to or greater
than the level of safety that prevails without the exemption. FMCSA
requests public comment on the NAAA application for exemption.
DATES: Comments must be received on or before August 6, 2007.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by DOT DMS Docket Number
FMCSA-2007-28480 using any of the following methods:
- Web site: http://dmses.dot.gov/submit/. Follow the
instructions for submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site.
- Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
- Mail: Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of
Transportation, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Washington, DC
- Hand Delivery: Room W12-140, Ground Floor of West
Building, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE.,
Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday,
except Federal holidays.
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov.
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
Instructions: All submissions must include the Agency name and
docket number for this notice. Note that all comments received will be
posted without change to http://dms.dot.gov including any personal
information provided. Please see the Privacy Act heading for further
Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or
comments received, go to http://dms.dot.gov at any time or Room W12-
140, Ground Floor of West Building, U.S. Department of Transportation,
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5
p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The DMS is
available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. If you want us to
notify you that we received your comments, please include a self-
addressed, stamped envelope or postcard or print the acknowledgement
page that appears after submitting comments on-line.
Privacy Act: Anyone may search the electronic form of all comments
received into any of DOT's dockets by the name of the individual
submitting the comment (or of the person signing the comment, if
submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, or other
entity). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the
Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477, Apr. 11,
2000). This statement is also available at http://dms.dot.gov.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Thomas Yager, Chief, Driver and
Carrier Operations Division, Office of Bus and Truck Standards and
Operations, MC-PSD, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
telephone 202-366-4009, E-mail: MCPSD@dot.gov.
Section 4007 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
(Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, June 9, 1998) amended 49 U.S.C. 31315
and 31136(e) to provide authority to grant exemptions from motor
carrier safety regulations. On December 8, 1998, the Federal Highway
Administration's Office of Motor Carriers, the predecessor to FMCSA,
published an interim final rule implementing sec. 4007 (63 FR 67600).
On August 20, 2004, FMCSA published a final rule (69 FR 51589) on this
subject. Under this rule, FMCSA must publish a notice of each exemption
request in the Federal Register (49 CFR 381.315(a)). The Agency must
provide the public an opportunity to inspect the information relevant
to the application, including any safety analyses that have been
conducted. The Agency must also provide an opportunity for public
comment on the request.
The Agency reviews the safety analyses and the public comments, and
determines whether granting the exemption would likely achieve a level
of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be
achieved by the current regulation (49 CFR 381.305). The decision of
the Agency must be published in the Federal Register (49 CFR
381.315(b)). If the Agency denies the request, it must state the reason
for doing so. If the Agency grants the exemption, the notice must
specify the person or class of persons receiving the exemption, and the
regulatory provision or provisions from which exemption is being
granted. The notice must also specify the effective period of the
exemption (up to 2 years), and explain the terms and conditions of the
exemption. The exemption may be renewed (49 CFR 381.300(b)).
Application for Exemption
The NAAA is a trade association that represents over 1,300 members
in 46 states. It requests that commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers
supporting agricultural aircraft operations be exempted from the
required knowledge and skills tests required for a CDL and that these
individuals be eligible to receive restricted CDLs as described in 49
CFR 383.3(f). In addition, NAAA further requests an exemption from 49
CFR 383.3(f)(3)(v) that would allow these restricted CDL holders to
transport fuels used to power agricultural aircraft engines, if
transported in quantities of 1,000 gallons or less.
NAAA member operators/pilots are licensed as commercial applicators
who use aircraft to enhance food and fiber production, protect
forestry, and control health-threatening pests. According to the NAAA,
as a part of this operation, a CMV will be driven to a satellite strip
where the plane is normally located. The driver will serve as a
"mixer-loader" of the crop protection products that go into the
agricultural aircraft, and will also refuel the aircraft at the
satellite strip. These activities are normally conducted at a location
where the aerial application operators have permanent fuel tanks and
mixing and loading facilities for crop-protection products. However, at
times they work so far from their permanent facility that it is cost-
effective to use a satellite landing strip and an on-site fuel truck.
The fuel is pumped from the fixed base tanks into the fuel truck and
then the fuel truck transports it to the satellite strip for the
agricultural aircraft. More trips are made to transport fuel to the
satellite strip as needed and the CMV returns to the fixed-base
location at the end of the day. Some of the vehicles may also be
equipped with crop protection products such as fertilizers,
insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides. Due to the nature of this
work, the truck drivers normally are traveling on rural, less-
NAAA requests that these drivers be permitted to receive restricted
CDLs without knowledge and skills testing primarily to expand the labor
pool of available drivers. A shortage of available drivers may prevent
use of a satellite airstrip closer to the application site. This
results in an aircraft having to travel back to its home base for each
load instead of using a closer landing area. In this case more fuel is
burned to travel to the application site and more time elapses,
resulting in fewer application jobs performed during the day. One
operator surveyed responded that he loses $2,500 to $5,000 per day as a
result of not having an available CDL driver. The granting of the
exemption would save on fuel costs, which, according to the NAAA, have
increased 142% for aerial application operations in the last three
In a recent survey, NAAA asked its members if they had experienced
difficulties finding CDL drivers to transport chemicals and fuel to
satellite application strips, and over 95% answered "yes." In
addition, over 90% of the respondents answered that they had found
themselves without a CDL driver for such vehicles during the aerial
application season. One explanation offered for this situation is that
qualified CDL drivers would be more interested in all-year driving
work, rather than the seasonal work that driving for an aerial
application operation offers. This factor, coupled with the fact that
most aerial application operations are located in rural areas, makes
for a smaller pool of available, qualified drivers.
NAAA also states finding Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
locations and scheduling testing times to take the knowledge and skill
tests required for a CDL can be difficult. Its survey indicates that
only a select number of DMV locations offer the knowledge and skill
tests required to obtain a CDL. Over 76% of the respondents indicated
that only a limited number of these DMV locations are readily
available. This is an additional handicap, as these operators must take
the time and resources to travel significant distances for a potential
employee to be tested.
NAAA also requests an exemption from 49 CFR 383.3(f)(3)(v)
provisions that limit restricted CDL holders to transporting diesel
fuel in quantities of 3,785 liters, or 1,000 gallons or less. There are
two fuels used in agricultural aircraft operations. One is Jet A, which
is used to fuel turbine engines. The second is Avgas, which is used to
fuel piston-engine aircraft. Diesel and Jet A fuel are very similar in
terms of chemical characteristics. The flash point for the two
chemicals is nearly identical at 100 degrees, and Avgas has a lower
flashpoint than Jet A and diesel.
The time period in which the exemption would usually be needed is
the 180 days from the beginning of April through the end of September.
This parallels the main season for growing crops in the U.S.--the
period aerial applicators are most active. However, because climatic
conditions vary around the country, the season of an agricultural
aircraft operation depends on where the business is located. If a
restricted CDL exemption is granted, NAAA therefore requests that the
operator be able to choose the six-month period that best matches the
growing conditions in the area in which the business is located.
NAAA's justification for including agricultural aircraft operations
among the types of employers that may use restricted CDL holders, as
listed in section 383.3(f), is that these types of operations are
extremely similar to agri-chemical businesses, farm retail outlets,
etc. Agricultural aircraft operators transport the same types of
materials, such as fertilizers, pesticides and fuel, and in the same
quantities as the farm-related industries. Furthermore, agricultural
aircraft drivers are transporting these materials on the same rural,
lightly-trafficked roads on which farm-related industries are
NAAA's response to ensuring an equivalent level of safety for the [[Page 36750]]
proposed exemption is that these operations will be required to ensure
that they employ safe drivers and that safe equipment is used on the
roads. NAAA states that section 383.3(f)(3) requires restricted-CDL
holders to have a "good driving record." These operators are required
to perform random drug tests on employees and to ensure that drivers
have hazardous materials endorsements, which require a background check
by the Transportation Security Administration. Furthermore, under 49
CFR part 180 Subpart E, "Qualification and Maintenance of Cargo
Tanks," regulations are in place to ensure the structural integrity of
the cargo tanks used to transport fuel in the event that the tanks are
involved in a crash.
A recent NAAA survey found that 95.3% of aerial application
businesses surveyed had never been involved in any type of accident
while transporting fuel or chemicals. The results also show that 92.9%
of those surveyed travel on roads in rural areas with minimal traffic
and that a vehicle transporting fuel or chemicals travels an average of
57.81 miles per day. NAAA notes that several operators also mentioned
that they do not travel this many miles every day. In many cases,
driving is done only once or twice a week to a satellite facility.
To ensure that the current safety level is preserved, NAAA states
that it is in a strong position to provide meaningful continuing
education on highway safety to a large portion of the small business
owners of agricultural aviation operations throughout the country
through its education program known as the Professional Aerial
Application Support System (PAASS). The focus of the PAASS program is
to educate individuals in the aerial application industry on the latest
techniques and technologies to mitigate agricultural aviation flying
accidents and off-target application incidents, in addition to
enhancing the security of aerial application operations. According to
NAAA, in addition to educating its industry on security and pilot
safety, PAASS can also be used to further educate its members on
highway transportation safety issues.
A copy of the NAAA exemption application is available for review in
the docket for this notice.
Request for Comments
In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31315(b)(4) and 31136(e), FMCSA
requests public comment on NAAA's application for exemption from the 49
CFR part 383 CDL requirements. The Agency will consider all comments
received by close of business on August 6, 2007. Comments will be
available for examination in the docket at the location listed under
the ADDRESSES section of this notice. The Agency will file comments
received after the comment closing date in the public docket, and will
consider them to the extent practicable. In addition to late comments,
FMCSA will also continue to file, in the public docket, relevant
information that becomes available after the comment closing date.
Interested persons should monitor the public docket for new material.
Issued on: June 26, 2007.
Larry W. Minor,
Acting Associate Administrator for Policy and Program Development.
[FR Doc. E7-13021 Filed 7-3-07; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P