If passed, change to CDL rules to impact ND farmers, ranchers
By Sean M. Soehren
After the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently extended a public comment period for discussion of commercial driver's license requirements, area farmers and ranchers are urging no more regulations.
The FMCSA is seeking guidance on whether off-road farm machinery or equipment used to transport goods on public roads should be considered commercial vehicles.
As it stands now, each state is allowed to grant exemptions of CDL requirements, which in North Dakota includes farmers and ranchers.
North Dakota Farm Bureau Policy Director Sandy Clark said the FMCSA docket is concerned about uniformity, but there is no one-size-fits-all CDL regulation.
"There will be differences between states, and rightfully so," she said, adding that other states are more densely populated and have infrastructure less based in agriculture.
Clark said if the proposed definition was honored, tractors, combines and pickup trucks hauling grain or livestock would have to be licensed as commercial vehicles. She added that operators would have to have a medical card and log hours of operation.
"This would be really cumbersome for agriculture," Clark said.
Will Meyer farms and ranches near Killdeer and drives commercially for oil companies in the area. He said that getting the commercial license would be difficult for farmers because testing times are filled up by applicants who need the CDL to work in the oil patch. He added farmers would be slowed by the documentation of mileage that accompanies the CDL.
"Right now there is a 100-mile log book," he said. "That would be really hard for farmers and ranchers because there are a lot of times you are in a hurry."
Meyer added that it would be a hassle to log miles because farmers and ranchers use multiple pieces of equipment and would have to transport the logbook with them, whereas most "over-the-road" commercial drivers use one truck.
"It is just another headache," Meyer said.
Interstate and intrastate commerce are also under question by the FMCSA. An example is given in the docket where a farmer takes a load of grain to a local elevator and although the driver does not travel outside the state, it may be considered interstate commerce because the goods are intended to be sold in another state.
Most of the FMCSA safety regulations are only applicable to operation of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce, according to the docket.
"This is just one more hoop to jump through," said Ty Blodgett, a rancher near Amidon. "I don't agree with it."
Another item under scrutiny is farmers with crop-share agreements being considered as commercial carriers.
In a crop-share arrangement the landowner rents farmland to a tenant, who carries out the farming practice, in exchange for a share of the crops grown on the land. Generally, one person will haul all the goods to market, even though two parties will have interest in the crops. Since one person would be hauling another's crop and there may compensation, it could be construed as for-hire driving.
Clark said there are many crop-share agreements in North Dakota and more regulations could stifle the operations.
Meyer said it would be difficult for the area to adjust to new regulations.
"Everyone is so used to being exempt for so long, it would be a hard change," he said.
FMCSA Spokesperson Duane DeBruyne declined comment and said interested parties should read through the docket at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
The FMCSA is taking public comments at www.regulations.gov until Aug. 30.