With the deadline approaching, new safety rules for truck drivers, including definitions for agricultural commodities are not getting much public feedback.
The deadline for comments is Sept. 27, 2019, and currently, just 30 have shared their opinions with the federal Department of Transporation (DOT).
Two farm trucks haul corn, soybeans, and turfgrass within 50 miles of Libby Essick’s family farm near Kernersville, NC. Each farm truck travels about 7,500 a year moving the crops. USDA and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture define turf as a crop, but not DOT.
Essick says the hours of service regulations put a burden on the farm.
Jack Williams of Wingdale, NY hauls horses. He’d like DOT to exempt any requirement to keep logs within a 200-mile radius of a truck’s terminal. He says horses need food and water breaks every five and one-half hours. He suggests coordinating the driver breaks with the horses.
Scott Hampton, who did not provide his state and town, isn’t happy with the proposed regulations. “Why in the world does out government have to make things so difficult?” he asks. Just use some common sense.”
Hampton says flexible hours of service would address many of the concerns. He says ag commodities should go including everything related to farming, planting, and harvesting, from seeds to grains to fertilizers. Hampton says the rules should recognize farm trucks take time to unload.
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will after the deadline be reviewing all the comments ahead of making the rules final. They revolve around Hours-of-Service (HOS) requirements for truck drivers.
The DOT’s goal is to improve safety and flexibility for commercial drivers. The drivers would be required, at a minimum, to take one 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of driving.
Drivers would also be allowed to be “on-duty, not driving” rather than “off-duty” during breaks.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao sees the new rules as more flexible, but with lessening the safety limits on driving times. They include a short-haul exemption for Commercial Drivers License (CDL) holders within 150 air miles. Off-duty hours for those operating within the exception will be increased to 14 hours, up from 12.
DOT estimates the changes will save American consumers an estimated $274 million and improve driver safety on the road.
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