Federal government may force farmers to get CDL to operate on the road


****This story has been updated since the Farm and Dairy went on the press. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration came out with a new statement. Click here to view the new statement.****

SALEM, Ohio — Transporting equipment or grain could become a major headache for producers if the federal Department of Transportation gets its way.

Farmers could be forced to obtain a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, if a current proposal moves forward. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is saying safer roadways are the reasoning behind the proposed rule changes.

Not new

According to a statement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the federal Department of Transportation, the safety administration is not proposing new regulations for the farming community.

In the statement, Anne S. Ferro, administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said in many cases farmers and farm equipment don’t fall under federal truck safety regulations when they are transporting products short distances, either within the farm or to a local market.

However, the lines of distinction aren’t always clear. So in May, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sought public feedback on how existing commercial truck safety regulations impact the agricultural community.

The comments were accepted between May and Aug. 1 and the feedback was reportedly significant.

Want clarity

Specifically, the safety administration is looking at the definition of interstate vs. intrastate, and how it should be defined when it comes to farmers.

For example, the safety administration is looking into whether or not grain being transported from the farm to the local elevator should be defined as “interstate commerce.”

Another area the safety administration is investigating is whether or not a farmer should be required to have a CDL when they are involved in crop sharing. Some farmers lease ground contingent on a crop share agreement where the landowner gets a portion of the harvest. The question is whether or not a CDL is required when the farmer is hauling grain that does not belong to them 100 percent.

The third issue being looked into by the safety administration is the definition of farm equipment and whether or not a commercial motor vehicle license is necessary to operate the equipment.

Numerous farm commodity groups and individuals submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about the proposal.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, were just two legislators speaking out about the proposal. Both legislators expressed their displeasure with the idea of requiring farmers to obtain commercial driver’s licenses.

Speaking out

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation also submitted comments regarding the proposal.

Leah Finney, director of legal education, said the OFBF is against farmers being required to have a commercial driver’s license, and said the OFBF also commented about the definition of interstate vs. intrastate travel.

She said if the farmer is farming within the state of Ohio, then the definition should be intrastate.

“We don’t agree with the interpretation that if the grain is hauled to an elevator in the same state and it [the grain] is then sold outside of that state, then the travel should be considered interstate. The grain is leaving the farmer’s control and direction when they sell it,” Finney said.

Grain hauling

The OFBF is also against requiring a producer to have a CDL if they are hauling grain that is part of a crop share agreement. This could mean that some of the grain being hauled belongs to the landowner in the crop share agreement.

“You are still considered the farmer. You grew it and harvested it,” said Finney.

She said the transportation to the elevator is part of the lease agreement.

“It doesn’t change the fact you grew it and harvested it,” said Finney.

Farm equipment

The safety administration is also addressing the definition of farm equipment and when a CDL is necessary.

Finney said the OFBF defines farm machinery as equipment not used for transportation.

“Anything in Ohio considered farm machinery should be considered implements of husbandry,” she said.

The definition would include combines, trailers for hauling produce, balers, spreaders, agriculture tractors and tillage equipment.

The safety administration will review all comments submitted, and expects to release the results of the comment period in September.

Issues in CDL regulation

• Distinguishing interstate vs. intrastate

• Applicability of the CDL rules to farmers operating under a crop share farm lease agreement

• Implements of husbandry definitions

(Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration )


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  1. The FDOT just wants more revenue in a down economy. I’m sure the last thing farmers need is more government regulation in their business. If the drivers are hauling short distances I don’t see why they would need a CDL.

    • This story is a LIE. The feds were never looking to force farmers driving tractors to get a CDL – in fact they were looking to protect farmers from states that would have done that. Farm And Dairy – please make a better revision, as this posting is still spreading a lie, and people are reading and believing it.

  2. Of course! How else is Monsanto going to stop those evil organic and local farmers from growing their toxic foods. All food should be controlled by Monsanto so we can eat yummy yummy pest resistant GMOs!!! If you don’t like those, there’s always factory produced chemical boxed food! Screw the farmers! They make yucky vegetables. Ugh!

  3. You can bet the big corp farms have CDL drivers. We don’t. The .gov is doing all they can to put the little guy out of business and make us dependent on them. They are already going after the little guys down to backyard gardeners that sell their excess, farmers markets and recently I have read of two cases of near swat team level raids on farmers who were selling (person to person) raw milk. Not tainted milk, nothing wrong with it other than they were selling it. I would ask if they understand we are the ones feeding you but then I read an editorial (San Francisco paper go fig) of a person saying that hunting is wrong and we should buy meat in the grocery store where its made instead. Oh well I might as well start to study for my CDL

    • Read the link on the update above…You do not know what the feds were trying to do. They were looking to protect the little guy….

    • You guys do not know what you are talking about… The Federal Government was NEVER looking at requiring a CDL for farmers. In fact, they were looking to make sure the states wouldn’t reduce the exemptions farmers have. To quote from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s May report, the one they requested public comment on:
      -No. Implements of husbandry are outside the scope of these definitions when operated: (1) At a farm; or (2) on a public road open to unrestricted public travel, provided the equipment is not designed or used to travel at normal highway speeds in the stream of traffic. This equipment, however, must be operated in accordance with State and local safety laws and regulations as required by 49 CFR 392.2 and may be subject to State or local permit requirements with regard to escort vehicles, special markings, time of day, day of the week, and/or the specific route.
      -The FMCSA believes the experience of State agencies in dealing with implements of husbandry suggests that FMCSA should consider new regulatory guidance to emphasize a practical approach for applying the safety requirements under 49 CFR parts 390-399 to agriculture, rather than one derived from strict, literal readings of the definitions of “commercial motor vehicle” and “motor vehicle” under 49 CFR 390.5. Based on those definitions, almost any type of self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce is subject to the FMCSRs if the threshold for weight, passenger-carrying capacity, or amount of hazardous materials is reached. This is especially the case when the definition of “motor vehicle” is considered, which includes “any vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used upon the highways. * * *” (See 49 CFR 390.5) A narrowly literal reading would mean applying the rules in circumstances where they would be impractical and produce no discernible safety benefits.

      Anyone who said they were trying

  4. The fed has over steped it has already destroyed people trying to make A Decent living. Next you will need a cdl to pull youre boat or rv. What is in youre wallet.

    • Just wanted to tell you Maryland Tea that the USDOT was never looking to make farmers get CDLs to drive a tractor…In fact they were looking to protect them from states looking to require them.

  5. Well, Susan, I did read the update, which explains what actually was taking place, but unfortunately this page is still up, and people are making comments, reading this and still believing that was the intent. I think there should be more information on the update, as this fallacy continues to be spread.Having read the 14-page May document from the FMCSA, it seems pretty clear the feds were trying to protect farmers from states, but as you see from the late posts, they are believing this lie.


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