Guide to US Agricultural Exemption for Hours of Service (HOS)

Oct 11, 2022


Transporting agricultural products and livestock presents challenges for fleets, including product degradation, animal welfare, and the time required to plant horticultural products. The US agricultural exemption is designed to give fleets flexibility to comply with hours of service regulations while addressing issues faced by this trucking segment.

US hours of service regulations give drivers a 14-hour window to drive a maximum of 11 hours, with mandated 30-minute breaks after eight hours of driving. Drivers can start a new work shift after ten consecutive hours of rest.

Considering these rules, the agricultural exemption can be beneficial by suspending driver hours of service and driving time requirements within a specific, 150-air-mile radius. Fleets can optimize the benefits of this exemption using technology.

Who can use the agricultural exemption?

All fleets can use the agricultural exemption. Eligibility is determined by the nature of the cargo, the source of the cargo, the destination, and the distance from the source loading point.

What products qualify for this exemption?

All agricultural commodities, non-processed food, animal feed, fibers, and livestock fall under the agricultural exemption.

Agricultural commodities refer to horticultural products at risk of perishing or degrading in quality during transport, including plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees. Farming supplies intended for agricultural use also qualify for the agricultural exemption.

Non-processed food refers to food commodities in a raw or natural state and not subjected to significant post-harvest changes to enhance shelf life, such as canning, jarring, freezing, or drying. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, and oilseed crops that have been minimally processed by cleaning, cooling, trimming, cutting, chopping, shucking, bagging, or packaging to facilitate transport.

The list of what constitutes livestock is exhaustive. In 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) clarified the definition to encompass all living animals farmed, raised, or bred for commercial purposes, including insects and aquatic animals.

What facilities are considered a source?

Farms and ranches that originate agricultural commodities are considered sources. Intermediate storage and loading facilities, such as grain elevators and sale barns, also constitute accepted sources if the product still meets the definition of an agricultural commodity.

When agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip, the first loading point is considered the source that determines the 150-air-mile exemption radius. (See Scenario  5, below)

How to use the agricultural exemption

There are five scenarios when the agricultural exemption applies.

Scenario 1: En route empty to source

A → B: Empty travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the source
B → C: Empty travel within the 150-air-mile radius to the source
C → D: Loaded travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination

Scenario 2: En route loaded to destination

A → B: Loaded travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination
B → C: Loaded travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination

Scenario 3: Return empty from delivery

A → B: Loaded travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination
B → C: Loaded travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination
C → D: Empty travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the initial source
D → E: Empty travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the initial source

Scenario 4: Starting a new trip without returning to original source

A → B: Loaded travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination
B → C: Loaded travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the destination
C → D: Empty travel outside the 150-air-mile radius toward the new source
D → E: Empty travel within the 150-air-mile radius toward the new source

Scenario 5: Agricultural commodities to market from multiple sources

A → B: Loaded travel from the initial source (A) to a secondary source (B) within the 150-air-mile radius, before travelling to the next secondary source (C)
B → C: Loaded travel from a secondary source (B) within the 150-air-mile radius toward another secondary source (C) outside the 150-air-mile radius, before travelling to the destination (D)
C → D: Travel from the last secondary source (C) outside the 150-air-mile-redius, toward the destination (D) outside the 150-air-mile radius

Key takeaway

The key takeaway from the United States agricultural exemption is that hours of service and driving time can be suspended within a maximum radius of 150 air miles between the initial source and the destination. When the trip includes multiple sources, the first stop determines the source point of the 150-air-mile radius.

Does the US agricultural exemption apply in Canada?

This agricultural exemption does not exist in Canada, but Canadian fleets can use it in the United States. The 150-air-mile radius applies even if the source is Canadian.

The agricultural exemption ceases to apply when drivers enter Canada from the US. Drivers must comply with Canadian hours of service and driving rules after crossing the border.

Hours considered exempt in the US will be considered as driving time in Canada, counting toward Canadian limits for work shifts, days, and cycles. Planning is essential to avoid non-compliance in Canada.

ELDs make it easier to manage hours of service

Electronic logging devices make it easier to manage complex hours of service scenarios, including the 150-air-mile agricultural exemption in the United States. When integrated with a dispatch system, the ISAAC solution can automatically trigger the exemption for the driver according to the mandated radius. Instead of manual entry, the address of the source automatically defines the radius, saving time for dispatchers and drivers while reducing human error.

ISAAC’s in-cab technology delivers a wealth of efficiency for fleets. Watch a webinar that shows how technology helps to optimize compliance:

Watch Webinar – Smart Compliance Tech for Efficient Fleets

About the author

Véronique Poirier

Compliance Support Specialist, ISAAC

Véronique Poirier is Compliance Support Specialist at ISAAC. She has been working in the transportation industry for the past ten years, during which she has served as a compliance officer. Curious and persistent by nature, Véronique has extensive experience in the world of over-dimensional transportation.

Time to move forward with managed technology

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