Agriculture Trucking Exemptions Passed

Senate passes transportation amendments important for agriculture in the Highway Bill.

Published on: Mar 14, 2012

Although the Senate failed Tuesday to pass amendments renewing the biodiesel tax credit, two other amendments to the Highway Bill important to agriculture were approved.

One of the amendments, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and co-sponsored by Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., will continue an exemption for agricultural truck drivers concerning regulations on maximum driving and on-duty times during the busy seasons of planting and harvest. The amendment would apply to drivers transporting agricultural commodities within 100 miles of the farm that produced them or those carrying farm supplies for agricultural purposes within 100 miles of the wholesale or retail distribution point.

The second amendment would exempt drivers of farm vehicles from obtaining a commercial driver's license and would provide and exemption for farm trucks from federal regulations that are aimed at the long haul trucking industry. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., brought this amendment to the bill along with co-sponsors Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa. Both amendments have widespread support within the agriculture industry.

"Farmers and ranchers are not professional truck drivers and shouldn't be treated as such," National Cattlemen's Beef Association Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus said. "Hauling livestock to market two times a year is hardly the same as hauling goods across the country on a daily basis."

Bacus went on to say that NCBA and its members were pleased to see the U.S. Senate approve two commonsense amendments that differentiate agriculture from commercial transportation.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said that the hours of service exemption for agricultural truck drivers during planting and harvest seasons should be extended. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman also voiced his support for both amendments, especially the vehicle exemptions.

"The amendment is important because some states exempt farm vehicles while others do not," Stallman said. "Under the current situation, merely the act of crossing state lines can trigger conflicting requirements for some farmers who are doing nothing more than hauling their own crop."

Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Representative Sam Graves, R-Mo., has introduced H.R. 3265, which waives certain driving restrictions during planting and harvest seasons. H.R. 2414, The Farmers Freedom Act of 2011 is similar to Merkley's amendment and was introduced by Representative James Lankford, R-Okla.

Instead of moving forward with its version of the Highway Bill, the House has decided to take up the Senate version. The bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate this week and will then move to the House for consideration.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    My fiancé is a truck driver for a farm that hauls eggs to Portland Oregon twice a week and Seattle wa twice a week. The farm is located in wa state about 50 miles or more south Seattle. There are a few drivers at his company that doesn't have cdl and few times he has had long days due to truck breaking down or bad traffic. I don't think it's right to have drivers driving a semi without their endorsement and I think it's wrong that he does not have adequate time in between driving. One day he had a 19 hour day bc his truck broke down. And his tues and Friday route he does not have the ten hour off duty time in between routes. His work at the farm uses the excuse that they are farm exempt. I could understand it if its farms for cattle and livestock bc they aren't on the road often. But for his work that has a few drivers that never had a cdl and that travel more than the 100 air miles I think they are in the wrong. I wait for the day that his boss gets in lots of trouble with the way they run their company.

    • dan of here says:

      turn that company in i think it might be stiebrs farms, i heard of them, they dont care about drivers...no sick pay mad if you dont show up...i talked to a driver that quit...bad company...

  2. Anonymous says:

    Anybody else out there into fucking sheep? ...I don't understand why these dumb farmers can't just take a taxi instead of putting everybody at ridk when they are driving down lonely country roads. They could hit a cow or something.

    • DOUMB FARMERS says:

      THEM DOUMB FARMERS FEEDS YOUR DOUMB ASS DOUMB ASS.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don't understand why people still farm in this day and age. Why can't they be normal like the rest of us and get their food from the grocery store. All you have to do is go to the welfare office and get an EBT card - and it's free - why would anybody want to work that hard just for food?

  4. Anonymous says:

    The semi-tractor trailers we use are inspected, tagged, have tonnage purchased and are legal in every way. We could not use them if they were not. You are correct in saying that farming is a business and not just a lifestyle. We take our agri-business very seriously, if we did not, we would not survive. It is not simply planting something and waiting around till it is ready to harvest. As the regulatory burden and cost increases, the difficulty for smaller operations to survive increases. As the regulatory burden and cost increases, the difficulty for the next generation to transition into farming or to start farming is made virtually impossible. No one is advocating unsafe practices, on the contrary. There are common sense exemptions for farmers that allow them to conduct their businesses without having to pay excessive fees to take their crops to market. Margins are already low enough. If we continue on this path we will end like Europe where it is so expensive to farm that the farmers are almost 100% subsidized by the government. Let me ask you a question. If you were not/or are not currently farming today and had no family connections in agriculture, how difficult do you think it would be for you to go out and get financing for enough land to be profitable and operation financing to run your agri-business? After you have considered that, take into account the increasing costs of regulatory burdens and how much more difficult that would make starting your business. If you have the passion and drive to farm, then you have the desire to do it safely and responsibly with respect to the equipment, the people, and the environment. To the original commenter who is both a farmer and CDL holder; I do not know what you farm, but the fruit business is extremely labor intensive. Field crops require much less people to grow and harvest. In order to farm 600-700 acres of orchard, the number of employees needed for harvest swells to over 200. Any cost that can be reduced or cut, must be done or there will be no profit. -WriterAg

  5. Anonymous says:

    I understand RV folks don't need to get CDL for even the largest unit with trailer? They drive all over country instead of on limited use roads at low speeds.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There are so dang many "permits" I have to bother with. CDL, Medical card, pickup inspected, wife needs to do same. Need to get permit to spray, spread fert, use treated seed, and multiple trailers to safely haul stuff. I drove grain truck before I had DL for car. There are many improvements that the legal costs make useless. I remember when I had a home built cattle trailer. No brakes, lights behind 2wd half ton. Yep its legal. So I buy a quality one with brakes all axles, full lighting behind dsl 3/4 ton. Now I have to pay lic/insurance seperate from truck? The market is less then half as far as I used to go.... Just leave us alone to try to make a living. The crop prices are FINALLY getting to match input costs/equipment..

  7. Anonymous says:

    If you want to use the same roads as my kids and grandkids, you should meet the same criteria as anyone else driving similar equipment. Public safety should not be sacrificed to save farmers a few dollars or a little time.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If you can afford to own semi tractor units that sit idle except for two short periods, but cannot afford to obtain CDLs for the drivers, how are you able to road a safe unit. One has to only guess on the condition of units that are being used. It is time for agriculture to grow up and make a choice, either be a business or a life style.

  9. Anonymous says:

    WriterAg: Ahh, but I am a farmer. I also have a CDL and it did not cost a fortune. The manual is available from the DOT, study it and take the written test (not difficult), then take a road test. You will need to get a DOT physical every couple of years ... not a bad idea in any case. Jeopardizing safety based on the argument that you only use your trucks a couple of times a year and you want to hire cheap help won't get you far if one is in an accident. I agree that unreasonable regulation is a problem in much of farming and other business ... but this is not unreasonable.

  10. Anonymous says:

    To Anonymous: Clearly you are not a farmer. "Hauling cattle to market two times a year,” is more the norm than you think. As a fruit grower in Washington State, the semi tractor-trailers we own sit idle the majority of the year. We start using them in mid-summer to obtain empty fruit bins from the packing warehouse in preparation for harvest, and then of course for harvest itself to transport fruit from the orchard to the warehouse. The rest of the year, the trucks sit idle most of the time. We not only don’t have time to go to a CDL course, the $4-5,000 cost to take a CDL course is prohibitively expensive for a part time need. And the cost to hire someone with a CDL is also prohibitively expensive. These are common sense exemptions that allow for greater independence on the part of the farmer. American farmers are jacks of all trades because they have to be. We cannot afford to go out and get professional certifications for every element of growing our crop (i.e. truck driving, fabrication, equipment and vehicle maintenance, construction, chemical engineering, hydro engineering, etc… etc… etc…), nor can we afford to hire a certified professional for each of those elements. We are defined by our versatility. When regulations begin to require professional certifications for every part of our business, than only the largest farms will survive, because they will be the only ones who are able to afford to hire people with the certifications required. What unacquainted bureaucrats do not understand when they impose more and more regulations on farmers, is that by driving up the cost of farming, they are ensuring the destruction of small farms. The capital outlay required to farm is already much greater than other businesses. By adding more and more to that cost, only the largest operations will be able to absorb those costs, and therefore they will be the only ones to survive. -WriterAg

  11. Anonymous says:

    Given the size of farm trucks today and the loads they are carrying, plus the fact that most of these large units have air brakes, which otherwise require a license endorsement, exempting operators of farm trucks from normal CDL requirements is a mistake. Obtaining a CDL is not difficult, but does require proof of understanding and ability. These are safety issues, as are the hours of operation requirements. If regulations are not going to enforce these laws, perhaps it's time that insurance companies started to look at this situation. Let's be honest about the fact that "hauling cattle to market two times a year" is no longer the norm.

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