A proposed two-year limited exemption from federal hours-of-service rules for certain agricultural shipments of anhydrous ammonia seems to be drawing a lukewarm response from ag haulers. The biggest issue seems to be the very limited nature of the proposal.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed the two-year limited exemption from 49 CFR part 395 regarding HOS requirements for tank transport drivers hauling anhydrous ammonia during the high-volume planting and harvesting seasons. Among other things, the proposal is intended to fix a problem in a 90-day waiver that was granted for anhydrous ammonia shipments this past spring.
“That 90-day waiver granted an HOS exemption to ag haulers for tank transport shipments of anhydrous ammonia from point of origin to point of destination (defined as a farm),” says Charles L “Shorty” Whittington, president of Grammer industries Inc. “Limiting the exemption to farm deliveries caused problems, because very few anhydrous ammonia shipments (10% at most) go directly to a farm. Most farms simply don’t have enough storage capacity to handle a full tank trailer shipment.”
The proposed two-year limited exemption would cover anhydrous ammonia shipments from any distribution point to a local farm retailer or to the ultimate consumer, and from a local farm retailer to the ultimate consumer, as long as the transportation takes place within a 100 air-mile radius of the retail or wholesale distribution point. To qualify for the exemption, the tank truck fleet must have a satisfactory safety rating or be “unrated.”
Some ag haulers are questioning why the HOS exemption was limited to just anhydrous ammonia. They point out that other bulk ag chemicals (including liquid fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides) also must be transported in large quantities during very tight seasonal windows. Those products also typically go to farm co-ops and other large distribution points, rather than to farms.
FMCSA’s comment period for the proposed HOS exemption for ag-related anhydrous ammonia shipments ends August 13. Comments must be identified by Federal Docket Management System Number FMCSA-2010-0230 and can be submitted on the FMCSA web site: http://www.regulations.gov.