The newly introduced Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act of 2020 would help accommodate the seasonal spikes in transportation of food, fiber and other agricultural supplies by modernizing the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service rules, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation and 101 other farm, livestock and food production groups.
“Given the strong safety record of the U.S. agricultural trucking sector, Congress periodically has modified policies to enhance its usefulness to help ensure a more efficient and cost-effective freight transportation distribution system. But it is in need of updating,” the groups wrote in a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety.
The HAULS Act would make three important incremental changes to the agricultural exemption to hours-of-services rules.
First, it would eliminate the “planting and harvesting periods” requirements to ensure uniformity across the country. Most states already have adopted a year-round agricultural exemption (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31) to accommodate the diverse range of crops and modern agricultural practices that keep trucks moving agricultural products year-round, the groups noted.
Second, the measure would provide a 150-air-miles exemption from hours-of-service regulations on the backend of hauls. This builds on the current exemption for the beginning of hauls at the “source” and simply would add the term “destination.” The same concerns that exist at the start of the haul – navigating minimally maintained rural roads, allowing extra time to ensure livestock safety, for example – exist at the end of the haul.
“This language also would address the very real concern of those who come close to their destinations and then ‘run out of time,’ forcing them to leave livestock on their trailers for 10 consecutive hours while only being a short distance from their destination. This is impractical, illogical, and detrimental to animal welfare,” the groups wrote.
Third, the HAULS Act would update of the definition of an agricultural commodity for purposes of determining eligible freight for the agricultural exemption. The bill’s proposed definition “appropriately covers current agricultural products and allows for continued evolution of any agricultural commodities in the future,” according to the groups.