Ag could lose their farm vehicle exemptions

The FMCSA Rulemaking Explained
By Oregon Farm Bureau Federation

Many members have inquired about the proposed rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to regulate farm vehicles as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) thus precluding exemptions for farm vehicles under both state and federal laws. Below is a brief description of the rulemaking and Oregon Farm Bureau’s intended response. The FMCSA regulates all motor carrier vehicles and safety standards, including drivers and vehicle equipment. The Agency also regulates the maintenance and safety operations of all CMVs, including regulations on minimum standards for testing and ensuring the fitness of an individual operating a CMV. The state of Oregon must use those standards when issuing commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). FMCSA regulations include many exemptions for agricultural operations. In reviewing these exemptions, the Agency has proposed three questions to be reviewed under the current public comment period. Those three proposed questions are:

1.)  How does one distinguish between intra- and interstate commerce when a CMV is operated within the boundaries of a single state?
2.)  Should the Agency distinguish between indirect and direct compensation in deciding whether a farm vehicle driver is eligible for the exception to the CDL requirements?
3.)  Should implements of husbandry and other farm equipment be considered CMVs?

Impact on Oregon Agriculture

Many states have tried to categorize agricultural products as interstate commerce, which would result in many farmers and ranchers losing any exemptions they currently enjoy for intrastate commerce. Defining farm vehicle drivers and/or tractors or other farm implements as CMVs would also result in farmers and ranchers losing those exemptions.

The first issue deals with how agriculture should be treated as interstate commerce or intrastate commerce. The second issue is whether or not farmers and ranchers who participate in crop share arrangements should be considered as “for hire” carriers, which would require commercial driving licenses. The third issue questions whether or not drivers of implements of husbandry, which would include tractors, combines, and other farm vehicles should be required to have commercial driver’s licenses.
Ultimately, farmers and ranchers would have to lay out the money for the CDL and if you have employees for whom English may not be their first language, that could be problematic. Also because other industries need CDLs it is possible to have a situation where farmers and ranchers pay to help their employees get those licenses but then the employee takes it elsewhere, leaving the farmer with added costs and no driver. There is also the issue of young farmers under 18 years of age not having the ability to work on their family farm because they won’t be able to drive a tractor without a commercial driver’s license.

Public Commenting Period

FMCSA has published these proposed rules in the federal register with a June 30, 2011 deadline to submit comments. OFB will be submitting comments on this imperative issue and calls upon members to do the same. You may submit comments identified by Federal Docket Management System Number FMCSA-2011-0146 by any of the following methods:

• Go to and follow the online instructions.
• Fax: (202) 493-2251
• Mail: Docket Management Facility, (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room 12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001

OFB is looking for Oregon farmers and ranchers who believe their operations will be directly affected if exemptions for crop share agreements are altered to require CDLs and/or if operations will be affected by designating implements of husbandry and other farm equipment (tractors, combines, etc.) as commercial motor vehicles requiring CDL drivers. It is critical FMCSA hear from you directly. OFB will work with you on submitting comments.

If you are interested in submitting comments or have questions about this rulemaking, please contact Jennifer Shmikler at [email protected] or 503-991-2785.

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