Last year, the major focus of the trucking industry was safety, as dictated by the Department of Transportation. The declaration was leading up to the deadline for all truckers and fleets to install and use electronic logging devices. Now, one month later, the agriculture transportation segment of the trucking industry may prove to be a big snag in the ELD mandate.
Agriculture Transportation Is Integral To The Economy
Throughout history, any society that was able to produce a surplus of food was able to thrive and grow. From the first nomads who started farms on through to our large agricultural country, commerce and upward mobility are based around being able to move produce and livestock to areas that need them. Here in the United States, agriculture transportation means our grocery stores and restaurants are stocked. This is where logistics and the ELD mandate begin to clash.
Cows Are Not Televisions
Unlike electronic goods, clothing, and cars, agriculture transportation runs on a much tighter schedule. The ELD mandate allows for an 11 hour day, after which truckers must stop driving until the next day. Produce rots. Livestock needs food and water. Even the goods being carried in refrigerated trailers have an expiration date. What are truckers supposed to do when driving between states to make deliveries? Theoretically, drivers could hand off loads, but that decreases revenue all around and can cause a big problem with logistics in an industry that already has a shortage of truckers.
Exemptions For Agriculture Transportation
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been careful to put exemptions into the hours of service for the ELD mandate. According to the guidelines, truckers involved in agriculture transportation have a 150 mile radius in which they can operate without having to use their electronic logging devices. Drivers are also not required to use ELDs provided they keep paper logs and their vehicles were manufactured before the year 2000. The other exception is that truckers must not operate outside of the 150 mile radius for more than eight days per 30 day period. The exemptions go beyond commercial truckers. Family farms and ranches making private deliveries with their own trucks do not have to log hours at all, provided the driver is either the owner, relative, or employee of the farm of origin.
The exemption, while good foresight on the part of the FMCSA, may open up other snags in the ELD mandate. Lab materials, waste, emergency services, disaster recovery such as during hurricane season, and more may lead to further exemptions and an eventual repeal of the ELD mandate.