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Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Rules

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates transportation in interstate commerce for vehicles weighing 10,001 or more pounds (i.e., any of the following: gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight (GCW) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR)). Vehicles with a GVW, GVWR, GCW or GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more may require the driver to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

However, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) provide an exception for the transportation of horses and other animals to shows and events, as well as cars, boats and other similar items. When such transportation is not business related (i.e., the transportation is not for compensation, and the driver is not performing in an underlying business related to the move), the FMCSRs do not apply, even if prize or scholarship money is offered for the event. This exemption includes the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, requirements for use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and CDL regulations, unless a CDL is required by the driver’s home state.

Agricultural Exemptions 

Congress provided four statutory exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety HOS Regulations for agricultural operations:

  • Covered farm vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more, operated by a farmer or a farmer’s employee, are exempt from HOS and CDL regulations if the vehicle is operated in the State of registration or within a 150-air mile radius of the farmer’s farm or ranch. Covered farm vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or less are exempt throughout the country.
  • Drivers who transport agricultural commodities within a 150-air mile radius of the originating farm or ranch are exempt from HOS regulations. FMCSA has published proposed guidance on this exemption.
  • Drivers who transport commercial bees in interstate commerce are exempt from the 30-minute break required by the HOS regulations if there are bees on board the vehicle.
  • Drivers who transport livestock in interstate commerce are exempt from the 30-minute break required by the HOS regulations if there is livestock on board the vehicle.

In addition, when drivers are not under dispatch or transporting an agricultural commodity, hours driven may be considered as personal conveyance and are not counted against daily and weekly HOS limits. Additional information is provided in the proposed guidance on personal conveyance.

General Applicability of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Including ELDs and HOS

If the vehicle or combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) weigh 10,001 pounds or more (GVWR, GCWR, GVW or GCW) and the operation is not eligible for any exceptions, the FMCSRs apply.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Exceptions

Several ELD exceptions may apply to a carrier’s operation, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The short-haul operations exception for preparing a logbook found in 49 CFR 395.1(e) for drivers who operate within a 100-air mile radius of their normal work reporting location for vehicles that require a CDL (or 150-air mile radius for vehicles that do not require a CDL), and work no longer than 12 hours a day.
  • Vehicles that are older than model year 2000.
  • Drivers who are required to complete paper records of duty status eight (8) days or fewer in any 30-day period. 

Recording HOS when Transporting an Agricultural Commodity

When a driver operates a vehicle under an agriculture exemption outside the 150-air mile radius from the source, distribution point, or wholesale distribution point and the driver does not qualify for an ELD exemption, the driver may use one of the following options to record their HOS on an ELD:

Option 1

A driver can operate within the 150-air mile radius without logging into the ELD, and then log into the ELD once the vehicle reaches the 150-air mile radius limit. Driving time within the 150-air mile radius will be identified on the ELD as “unidentified driving” time. The driver will reject the unidentified driving time on the ELD and the motor carrier must annotate the ELD data to explain that the “unidentified driving” time occurred while operating under an agricultural HOS exemption.

Option 2

The driver can log into the ELD when coming on duty and identify the time operating within the 150-air mile radius with an ELD annotation stating that the vehicle was operating under an agricultural HOS exemption.

When a driver is required to use an ELD, the safety official will review ELD data by transferring it to the Electronic Records of Duty Status (eRODS) software using the telematics or local transfer option. If the ELD data cannot be transferred, the safety official will review the data on the ELD display screen or printout. In accordance with the ELD rule, an ELD is not required to identify driver violations and the driver remains accountable for non-compliance with the HOS rules. 

General Applicability of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements:

A CDL is required if:

  • The vehicle has a GVWR or GVW of 26,001 pounds or more; or
  • A combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) has a GVWR or GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, including a towed unit with a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds.

However, if the vehicle is used for a non-commercial purpose, (i.e., a recreational vehicle, a vehicle transporting horses and other animals, or cars, boats and similar items to shows and events), the driver does not need a CDL, unless required by the driver’s home State. If an underlying business is not related to the transportation, it is considered non-commercial. This includes any unrelated agricultural business, such as a cattle rancher who owns horses for personal use, unrelated to the ranching business.

Employers and drivers who transport horses and other animals or cars, boats and similar items to shows and events, in a vehicle or combination of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more (GVWR, GVW, GCW or GCWR), must comply with their State’s licensing laws, which may or may not require a CDL.

A State may exempt farm vehicle operators from its CDL requirements. A farm vehicle waiver is limited to the driver’s home State, unless there is a reciprocal agreement with adjoining States.

How to Determine if a Driver is Required to have a CDL

If a safety official stops a CMV transporting an agricultural commodity (including non-processed foods, feed, fiber, or livestock), FMCSA recommends that the driver explain that the transportation is agricultural related. If it is determined that a driver is engaged in non-agricultural related transportation or the driver does not qualify for an agricultural exemption, FMCSA recommends that drivers use the following questions to determine if they are required to have a CDL:

  1. Is the vehicle being used for a non-commercial purpose, such as taking a personally owned animal to a show and there is no underlying business related to the transportation?

If YES, a CDL is NOT required.

  1. Does the vehicle or vehicle combination have a GVWR, GVW, GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 10,001 pounds or more?

If NO, a CDL is NOT required.

  1. Does the vehicle or vehicle combination have a GVWR, GVW, GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 10,001 pounds or more, but less than 26,001 pounds?

If YES, a CDL is NOT required. 

  1. Does the vehicle or vehicle combination have a GVWR, GVW, GCWR or GCW (whichever is greater) of 26,001 pounds or more?

If YES, a CDL MAY be required. 

For more information regarding the ELD rule, visit FMCSA’s ELD webpage. Questions can be submitted to agricultural@dot.gov.

Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2018
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