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Erin Brown / Grand Vale Creative

Ag industry gets another ELD waiver

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Tuesday announced additional steps to address the unique needs of the country’s agriculture industries and provided further guidance to assist in the effective implementation of the Congressionally-mandated electronic logging device rule without impeding commerce or safety.

The Agency is announcing an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the ELD rule for agriculture related transportation. Additionally, during this time period, FMCSA will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance. FMCSA will continue its outreach to provide assistance to the agricultural industry and community regarding the ELD rule.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.

Ag groups have expressed concern about the workability of the mandate, including how it could affect livestock, insects and perishable produce. Farm-state lawmakers also have raised some flags. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on Tuesday sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao voicing some of those concerns.

“In North Dakota, ranchers and recreational rodeo enthusiasts alike depend on our nation’s highways to move livestock to market and participate in rodeos across the region,” Heitkamp wrote. “As this rule has been implemented though, I have grown concerned about the lack of input agricultural and rural stakeholder groups have been able to provide during the rulemaking process, which has created considerable uncertainty in the application of the rule to these agricultural and recreational uses.”

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement that he'll continue to work for more solutions to the ELD issue.

“Today’s ELD waiver is good news for our farmers and ranchers,” Hoeven said. “This will help ensure that our ag products can get to market. Moving forward, we will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate and FMCSA to provide a solution that does not impose unworkable requirements, which threaten the safety of livestock while in transit.”

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association called the announcement good news.

"This is obviously good news for America's cattle haulers and producers, and it will provide FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) more time to educate our livestock haulers on the ELDs while industry works on solutions to the current Hours of Service rules that simply do not work for those hauling live animals," NCBA president Kevin Kester said in a statement. "We would like to thank Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez for listening to our concerns and working with us to find a permanent, workable solution."

Since December 2017, roadside compliance with the House of Service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been steadily increasing, with roadside compliance reaching a high of 96% in the most recent available data. There are over 330 separate self-certified deviceslisted on the registration list.

Outside of the waiver, full enforcement of the ELD rule beings April 1, 2018. Carriers that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out of service. The driver will remain out-of-service for 10 hours in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance criteria.  At that point, to facilitate compliance, the driver will be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop and should not be dispatched again without an ELD.  If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action.

The waiver and guidance will be published in the Federal Register.

For more information on ELDs please visit: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/eld.