CATCH THE BUZZ – Bee Haulers Get Another 90-Day Electronic Logging Waiver

Tom Karst

Truckers hauling agricultural commodities have another three months of freedom from the Department of Transportation’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 13 announced an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the electronic logging device rule for agriculture-related transportation, five days before the current waiver would have expired. The extension will push the ELD deadline for haulers of ag commodities to mid-June.

“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,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a news release.

Beyond the additional 90-day waiver, FMCSA said in the release that it will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance (such as when an off-duty driver uses the truck to return home or leaves home to make a pick up).

The announcement was welcomed by industry advocates.

“United Fresh commends administrator Martinez for acknowledging the unique needs of the fresh produce industry and appreciates FMCSA’s engagement with us thus far,” Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with FMCSA as this process moves forward and look forward to the upcoming release of their final guidance on this issue.”

The additional 90-day waiver and upcoming guidance will help, in Guenther’s words, to “clarify some of the unique issue areas faced by fresh produce carriers hauling highly perishable and time-sensitive commodities to American consumers.”

Ken Gilliland, director of international trade and transportation for Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., said the industry is not ready to comply with the ELD mandate and wanted a longer exemption.

“It is better than not extending it, and it gives us a little bit of time,” he said March 13. The temporary waiver for agriculture haulers will extend to June 16, he said.

“Hopefully by then (FMCSA) will come out with a final decision on whether or not it will be a permanent exemption,” Gilliland said.

If truckers are hauling fresh produce from shipping point areas, they are exempt from hours-of-service regulations within a 150-mile air radius of origin. Beyond that radius, Gilliland said the hours-of-service rules kick in. During the exemption period, carriers may use paper logs to record the hours of service.

Gilliland said that the regulations are still less than clear, and the industry is looking for more guidance from the agency about the rules.

Guidance and enforcement

The FMCSA said in the release it will continue its outreach for assistance to the agricultural industry regarding the ELD rule.

Since December 2017, compliance with the hours-of-service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been increasing, the agency said. Compliance reached a high of 96% in the most recent available data, according to the release. The release said there are more than 330 ELD devices listed on the registration list.

Starting April 1, full enforcement of the ELD rule begins for those carriers who are not exempt.

Carriers that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out of service, according to the FMCSA.