The agricultural exemption is a special consideration that allows carriers of agricultural commodities to be exempt from keeping Hours of service and using Electronic logging devices (ELDs). There are certain conditions that qualify a driver or carrier for using this special exemption.
Loaded and Unloaded
Many people thought the Ag exception could only be used when transporting goods, but it now clearly covers both legs of a round trip within the 150 air-mile radius, “regardless of whether the CMV is loaded or empty”. The sole purpose of the trip must be to load or unload an agricultural commodity, and no other non-agricultural cargo can be transported.
The FMCSA stated that not covering the unloaded return trip would “limit the relief” intended by Congress, and would make monitoring more complicated for law enforcement officials.
Beyond 150 Air-Miles
Another point of confusion was trips with destinations outside the 150 air-mile radius. The FMCSA stated that the exception applies to both legs of the portion of the trip within that radius, “regardless of the distance to the final destination.”
HOS regulations begin to apply when the driver travels beyond the covered radius, and the driver will need to keep HOS logs with an ELD until they cross back into the 150 air-mile radius on the return trip.
What is a Source
The logical source of agricultural commodities might be the field where the crops are grown or where livestock is raised, but that definition caused problems for drivers loading from grain elevators and livestock markets. Many in the industry asked that those types of storage locations be included as legitimate sources from which to measure the all-important 150 air-miles.
The FMCSA agreed that an agricultural commodity can have more than one source, but only if the commodity is still in its original form or hasn't been processed so much that it no longer meets the definition of an agricultural commodity. The agency noted that there would likely be more changes to this question in the future.
Commodities can have multiple sources, and so can a full trailer. Many commenters asked that multiple pickups be allowed in a single trip, and that the 150 air-mile radius be measured from the last pickup source.
The FMCSA agreed that pickups from multiple sources were essential to carriers, but disagreed on the radius calculation. The CVSA weighed in as well on the issue, and the new guidance states that the 150 air-mile radius must be measured from the first source only.
You can find more information and the full Regulatory Guidance on the FMCSA's website.
Below is a list of Hours of Service and Agricultural Exemptions issues by the FMCSA.
- 49 CFR § 395.1(k) provides exceptions from the HOS rules, during planting and harvesting periods as determined by the State, for the transportation of agricultural commodities (including livestock, bees, horses, fish used for food, and other commodities that meet the definition of “agricultural commodity” under § 395.2) within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of the commodities. The exception also applies to the transport of farm supplies for agricultural purposes shipped from either a wholesale or retail distribution point to the location the supplies will be used or from a wholesale distribution point to a retailer.
- The HOS regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities operating completely within the 150 air-mile radius by for hire or private carriers. Therefore, work and driving hours are not limited and the driver is also not required to use an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) or keep paper logs. In an operation where a driver uses a vehicle equipped with an ELD, a driver that is exempt can use an “Exempt Driver” account or annotate the time as exempt ag operation.
- Once a driver operates beyond the 150 air-mile radius, the HOS regulations apply. Therefore, starting at the time and location where the transporter goes past the 150 air-mile radius, the driver must maintain logs using an ELD, unless the driver or the vehicle meets one of the limited ELD exemptions. The driver must work and drive within the limitations of the HOS rules when operating beyond the 150 air-mile radius. Time spent working within the 150 air-mile radius does not count toward the driver’s daily and weekly limits.
- When operating within the 150 air-mile radius the driver can either identify the movement of the commercial motor vehicle as authorized personal use on the ELD or refrain from logging into the ELD.
- If the driver logs into the ELD and identifies the movement as authorized personal use then driver must also make an annotation on the ELD explaining that the movement is exempt per the agriculture exemption. Upon exiting the 150-air mile radius the driver must then identify the movement of the vehicle as on duty driving.
- If the driver does not log into the ELD while operating within the 150 air-mile radius then upon exiting the 150 air-mile radius, the driver must then log into the ELD, identify the movement as on duty driving, and make an annotation on the ELD explaining that the unassigned miles accumulated prior to that point were exempt miles.
- Drivers transporting agricultural commodities are not required to use an ELD if the vehicle was manufactured before the model year 2000, provided they prepare paper logs, or if they do not operate outside of the 150 air-mile radius for more than 8 days during any 30-day period, provided they prepare paper logs on the days when they are not exempt from the HOS rules.
- Covered farm vehicles, as defined in 49 CFR § 390.5T, are exempted from the HOS regulations per 49 CFR § 395.1(s). Carriers operating under this exemption are also not required to have an ELD. This only applies to private transportation of agricultural commodities (including livestock, bees, horses, fish used for food, and other commodities that meet the definition of “agricultural commodity” under § 395.2), machinery and supplies, to or from a farm or ranch by the owner or operator of a farm or ranch, or their family members or employees.