Tractors exempt from Pa. road regs, but not farm trucks

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — It looks like farm tractors will be exempt from the new motor carrier regulations being revised in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved new transportation regulations affecting agriculture during its Feb. 25 meeting despite strenuous objections by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau as well as by several members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently clarified that farm tractors are exempt from all of the new motor carrier regulations. The Farm Bureau had contended that farm tractors might be included in the regulations because the federal transportation code does not explicitly exempt “implements of husbandry.”

Farm trucks, however, still remain under the new regulations.

Under the gun

The regulations were proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in response to a directive from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The federal agency earlier determined the current PennDOT exemptions for drivers of farm trucks are “deficient” and if not changed by March 31, 2010, Pennsylvania would lose $3.1 million in federal money to pay for commercial vehicle safety enforcement activities and possibly another $22 million.

The exact regulations affecting farm trucks will not be known until they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which is expected prior to March 31. (Scroll down to read the latest interpretation of the regulations.)

Farm battle

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau provided extensive comments to the review commission and the Transportation Committees of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, spelling out the hardships the regulations would impose on farmers and asking for postponement of the final decision until more discussions could occur between Washington and Harrisburg.

However, the regulatory changes before the commission included many non-agricultural issues, including the banning of text messaging by commercial truck drivers. The IRRC could not have delayed or disapproved the farm vehicle regulations without also delaying or disapproving the non-agricultural regulation changes.

The farm group was hoping the regulations, which are similar to requirements imposed on interstate trucking companies, would have been disapproved “to allow PennDOT and USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) more time to address concerns from farmers, state lawmakers and members of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressional delegation and to provide clarification on several confusing requirements,” said Pa. Farm Bureau President Carl T. Shaffer.

Not safety issue

“No one involved in this regulatory process has pointed to safety issues involving farm vehicles as a reason for the changes,” Shaffer said. “We believe that the new regulations are an answer to a problem that does not exist.”

Back to D.C.

Farm Bureau’s focus now shifts back to Washington to achieve passage of legislation (H.R. 1220) — which remains before the U.S. Congress – which would enable states to enact appropriate exemptions for agriculture vehicles — or in the case of Pennsylvania — to continue the exemptions which currently exist.

Latest interpretation of the regs

The following summarizes what Pennsylvania Farm Bureau believes will be the legal requirements for drivers of agricultural vehicles and combinations with an actual weight or a weight rating of greater than 17,000 pounds after the changes to Pennsylvania’s intrastate motor carrier safety regulations go into effect:

Implements of Husbandry (Tractors, combines and other farm equipment):

Drivers of implements and farmers allowing operation of implements will not be subject to any intrastate motor carrier safety driver requirements, whether the implement is operated alone or is towing another vehicle.

Trucks Operating under Farm Vehicle Exemption (Sticker):

18-year Minimum Age Requirement:

– Will not apply, if the vehicle is operated alone.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is towing another vehicle (such as a trailer or implement).

Medical Certification Requirement:

– Will not apply, if the vehicle is operated alone.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is towing another vehicle.

Hours of Service (Driver Logs/Farm Recordkeeping):

– No farm driver exemption is provided. Regardless of whether the truck is operated alone or is towing another vehicle, the driver and farmer will be subject to daily logging and recordkeeping unless the use of the truck fits into one of the following special use categories:

Special use categories for which relief may be provided:

– Exemption for Hauling of Ag Supplies, Ag Products and Livestock Feed: Drivers and farmers will be exempt from all hours of service requirements for any hauling of agricultural supplies, products and livestock feed that meets the following conditions:

– The hauling is done within a 100-mile radius of the farm; and

– In the case of agricultural supplies and products, the hauling is done during March 1 through Nov. 30 (the season of planting and harvesting, as determined by the state). This condition does not apply to the hauling of livestock feed.

– Short-Distance Hauls:

Other special regulations provisions give limited relief to drivers of trucks that are only operated within a zone of a 100 miles or a zone of 150 miles of the farm or business. However, these special regulations still place requirements and work time and driving time restrictions on drivers and recordkeeping requirements on employers (farmers) that demonstrate the driver is complying with the special hours restrictions.

Requirement for Daily Driver Vehicle Inspections/Reports and Farmer Response to Inspection Reports:

– Will apply, regardless of whether the vehicle is operated alone or is towing another vehicle.

Trucks Operating under Farm Vehicle Registration (Plate):

18-year Minimum Age Requirement:

– Will not apply, if the vehicle is operated alone and the vehicle is operated within a 150-mile radius of the farm.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is operated outside the 150-mile radius of the farm, regardless of whether the vehicle is operated alone or is towing another vehicle.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is towing another vehicle, regardless of distance from the farm.

Medical Certification Requirement:

– Will not apply, if the vehicle is operated alone and the vehicle is operated within 10-mile radius of farm.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is operated outside the 150-mile radius of the farm, regardless of whether the vehicle is operated alone or is towing another vehicle.

– Will apply whenever the vehicle is towing another vehicle, regardless of distance from the farm.

Hours of Service (Driver Logging or Farmer Recordkeeping):

– No farm driver exemption is provided. Regardless of whether the truck is operated alone or is towing another vehicle, the driver and farmer will be subject to daily logging and recordkeeping unless the use of the truck fits into one of the special use categories:

Special use categories for which relief may be provided:

Exemption for Hauling of Ag Supplies, Ag Products and Livestock Feed: Drivers and farmers will be exempt from all hours of service requirements for any hauling of agricultural supplies, products and livestock feed that meets the following conditions:

– The hauling is done within a 100-mile radius of the farm; and

– In the case of agricultural supplies and products, the hauling is done during March 1 through November 30 (the season of planting and harvesting, as determined by the state). This condition does not apply to the hauling of livestock feed.

– Short-Distance Hauls:

– Other special regulations provisions give limited relief to drivers of trucks that are only operated within a zone of a 100 miles or a zone of 150 miles of the farm or business. However, these special regulations still place requirements and work time and driving time restrictions on drivers and recordkeeping requirements on employers (farmers) that demonstrate the driver is complying with the special hours restrictions.

Requirement for Daily Driver Vehicle Inspections/Reports and Farmer Response to Inspection Reports:

– Will apply, regardless of whether the vehicle is operated alone or is towing another vehicle.

* * *
Farm Bureau’s conclusions are based upon a study of the federal Motor Carrier regulations and an explanation of these regulations in a memorandum to the IRRC which was undersigned by the PennDOT, Pennsylvania State Police and the state Department of Agriculture (which can be reviewed by visiting the IRRC’s Web site at irrc.state.pa.us).

One Comment

  1. Bonnie LaTourette says:

    Is a cdl required to operate a farn truck, if its gvw is over 17,001?

    Also we registerd a farm truck (type c certificate of exemption) today and put in on our farm policy for insurance. The licensing center told us we can not operate the truck until the the sticker is sent to us. It could be there weeks. We need to haul corn silage tomorrow. Thanks, Bonnie

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