• Timely Topics

  • Below you will find more information on some of the stories and topics that continue to impact the trucking industry. Many of them have links to additional resources. Please take a moment explore these and stay up to date on the latest. Watch your inbox for each week's "Timely Topics" in the Express e-Newsletter!



    FMCSA Announces Clarifying Regulatory Guidance for Transportation of Agricultural Commodities, Personal Conveyance & Additional Information for OTA Members

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced new regulatory guidance clarifying the longstanding 150 air-miles hours-of-service agricultural commodity exemption as well as providing additional explanatory detail of the “personal conveyance” provision.

    “Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

    FMCSA published Federal Register notices proposing regulatory guidance for the transportation of agricultural commodities and the use of personal conveyance in December, 2017 and requested public comment. FMCSA is providing clarity on the use of the agricultural exemption and personal conveyance to both industry and law enforcement along with providing as much flexibility as possible for the industry, while maintaining safety.

    “We are dedicated to finding effective solutions to challenges, exploring new opportunities for innovation and constantly seeking ways to improve,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.

    In all, nearly 850 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register dockets on the proposed guidance pertaining to the transportation of agricultural commodities as well as on the personal conveyance provision.

    The new regulatory guidance is developed within a clear, questions-and-answers format and explains the 150 air-mile radius agricultural commodity exemption and how the “source” of the commodity is determined.  For a copy of this guidance, see: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ag-commodity-guidance

    Likewise, the new regulatory guidance outlines – and includes numerous examples – under what circumstances a commercial motor vehicle driver may operate the truck or bus for personal conveyance.  For a copy of this guidance, see: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/personal-conveyance-guidance

    From Andrew Eno

    Division Administrator

    Oregon Division, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    There are two major changes to the agricultural commodities guidance that expand upon the information we presented at the recent OTA meetings. Those changes are to the definition of “source” and how to apply the exemption when there are multiple pick-up points. I have highlighted and underlined the primary changes below:

    Question 6:  How is the "source" of the agricultural commodities in § 395.l(k)(l) determined?

    Guidance: The "source" of an agricultural commodity, as the term is used in § 395.l (k)(l), is the point at which an agricultural commodity is loaded onto an unladen commercial motor vehicle. The location may be any intermediate storage or handling location away from the original source at the farm or field, provided the commodity retains its original form and is not significantly changed by any processing or packing

    If a driver is making multiple trips, the first trip, and the 150 air-mile exception around that source, terminate once all agricultural products are offloaded at a delivery point. A new source for a new trip may then be identified, and the 150 air-mile radius for the exception will be around that source.

    For example, a sales barn where cattle are loaded may be treated as a "source," in addition to the location at which they were raised, since cattle remain livestock. As another example, a place where heads of lettuce are stored may become a "source," provided they retain their original form.  An elevator where grain is collected and dried may be a new "source," again assuming that the grain is not milled or similarly processed at the elevator.

     Question 37: How is the "source of the agriculturalcommodities" determined if the driver makes multiple pick-ups of the commodity enroute to the final destination?

    Guidance:  When a driver loads some of an agricultural commodity at a "source" and then loads more of that commodity at additional stops, the first place where the commodity was loaded is the measuring point for the 150 air-mile radius.



    White House Report: Tolling a "Prime Mechanism" for Highway Funding; Trucking Should Pay More

    A report issued last week by the White House reiterates the Trump Administration’s stance that tolling should be a prime mechanism for boosting highway funding. The report also says that the administration doesn’t think trucking pays enough in taxes to offset “the negative externalities [trucks] generate” relative to highway conditions, congestion and “accident risk.” Read more


    Americans Split on Federal Fuel Tax Increase; Trump Praises Oregon's VMT Tax

    With the proposed infrastructure plan now laid out, the question remains of how to pay for it. Tolling and raising the federal fuel tax are top ideas; however, President Trump may be a fan of more user-based fees, praising Oregon's VMT tax. Read more


    Truckers Can Receive Free Pneumonia, Shingles Vaccine Shots Through Sept. 20

    Truckers may get vouchers for free pneumonia and shingles vaccines, redeemable at Kroger, the Little Clinic, Walgreens and CVS. They are available through Sept. 20. Read more


    FMCSA Clarifies ELD Confusion for Horse Haulers

    A new set of guidelines are meant to reduce confusion over whether livestock haulers, including those who transport their horses, are required to install electronic logging devices on their trucks or possess a commercial driver license. Read more



    Carriers Try Creative Compensation Programs to Bring in New Drivers

    With the driver shortage getting worse, fleets are getting more creative when it comes to compensating drivers. Recruitment and retainment methods include a weekly salary, a team bonus program and offering more predictability in scheduling. American Trucking Associations last year reported the shortage at more than 50,000 drivers. Research firm FTR said the number is closer to 250,000 drivers when firms such as UPS Inc., and oil field service outfits are included. Read more.



    Find Answers to Questions Around New Entry-level Driver Training Rule

    In 2016, FMCSA announced the final rule establishing comprehensive national minimum training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or certain endorsements. Applicants seeking a CDL would be required to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge training and behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and on a public road, with training obtained from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards. The entry-level driver training Final Rule went into effect on February 6, 2017, with a compliance date of February 2020. But, what does this mean for carriers and new drivers?

    FMCSA has developed a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions. Click here to review them. You can also find more information on the Final Rule on FMCSA's website.


    Reminder: Rules Change on Driver Meal Expenses

    The federal tax reform package that passed Congress December 20 changes the rules for some truck drivers on the expenses they incur for meals and incidentals while they’re away from home on travel.  Employee truck drivers whose carrier does not pay them a per diem allowance will no longer be able to take the costs of meals and incidentals as an itemized deduction, as they have in the past.  Although this will be hard on some drivers, it may not make a difference to many, since the new tax law also doubles the standard deduction for taxpayers, so that fewer drivers will be itemizing at all.  This change is effective now, for 2018 taxes.  Note that owner-operators will still be able to deduct their costs for meals and incidentals, just as they have in the past, since owner-operators are in business for themselves, and those costs are deductible business expenses.  Finally, some carriers pay their employee drivers a separate per diem allowance to cover meals and incidentals.  The rules for carriers and drivers in that situation do not change.  We might caution, however, that the rules pertaining to per diem programs are complicated and somewhat tricky to implement. Click here to read more.


    OTA staff will be periodically monitoring this page to add new topics and remove outdated information. Keep your eye out for our Express e-Newsletter each week for a full list of member-only articles!

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