The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently considering rules that would exempt agricultural haulers from electronic logging device (ELD) requirements. Representatives from the agriculture industry argue that requiring them to adhere to the requirements of other large truck operators would hinder the harvest and negatively impact their overall operations.
Current & Proposed Exemption
In May 2018, the rules of the agricultural hauler exemption were clarified. Vehicles that operate within 150 air miles of their base of operations, whether it is a farm, silo, or livestock facility that handles non-processed agricultural products are exempt from having to utilize ELDs.
Legislation introduced earlier this year would extend this exemption to vehicles operating within a 300 air mile radius. Under the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act, agricultural drivers would also be allowed to operate up to 18 hours per day and reduce the number of required rest breaks. In particular, it removes the requirement for a 10 hour rest period between shifts. Thus, while the proposed legislation may make it easier for ag haulers to meet consumer demand, they will be placing public safety at risk in the process.
Large truck operators are required to utilize ELD’s to document their hours of service and to ensure that they are not operating their vehicles beyond the established limits. Operators are required to utilize an FMCSA approved and registered device. These purposes of these devices are to help reduce the number of drowsy driving accidents which have increased in frequency over the past decade.
Impact on Traffic Safety
Studies conducted by the Department of Transportation have demonstrated that the use of ELD’s in commercial motor vehicles has reduced the number of drowsy driving accidents. By exempting agricultural haulers from the requirements to utilize an ELD, agricultural industry advocates are placing public safety in jeopardy. The exemption will allow everyone from those hauling livestock to those hauling produce to skirt the rules that other large truck drivers are required to follow.
The exemptions may also have a cascading effect. Other industries may also argue for exemptions based on their industry-specific needs. This could result in widespread exemptions that diminish the effectiveness of the hours of service rules. Ultimately, this could lead to a significant number of drowsy driving accidents and exacerbate the already growing number of fatalities and injuries caused by large truck accidents in the United States.