By Joe Montenegro
While registered farm vehicles are generally afforded a multitude of exemptions from federal and state transportation laws, Pennsylvania farmers should be aware of the reduced scope of exemptions when engaged in interstate travel.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
The scope of exemption from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations for “covered farm vehicles” is largely based on the weight of the vehicle and combination. Apart from the weight classifications discussed below, to qualify as a “covered farm vehicle” the vehicle must be: (1) a straight truck or articulated vehicle; (2) operated by an owner operator of a farm or ranch, or by a family member of employee of the owner or operator; (3) transporting agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery or supplies to or from a farm or ranch; (4) carrying a license plate or other means that a state designates as a “farm vehicle” and (5) not used in for-hire motor carrier operations.
10,000 pounds or less
Covered farm vehicles and combinations with a weight or weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less are not subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Standards and requirements, unless carrying hazardous materials in quantities that require display of hazmat placards. Hazardous materials and placarding requirements are beyond the scope of this article, but generally an exception to placarding exists for non-bulk packaging under 1,001 pounds. For specific information on hazardous material requirements, refer to 49 C.F.R., Parts 172 and 173.
10,001 to 26,000 pounds
Covered farm vehicles and combinations whose actual weight or weight rating is 10,001 to 26,000 pounds are exempt from requirements for medical examination and certification, random and post-accident drug and alcohol testing, “hours of service” (driver logs and work time and driving time limitations), and driver daily inspections and written safety reporting of operated vehicles, regardless of the distance from the farm that the vehicle or combination is operated. The farmer or any family member or employee of the farmer can qualify for such exemptions.
Over 10,000 Pounds – Safe Operation, Vehicle Safety Standards and USDOT/UCR Number
Drivers of covered farm vehicles with a weight or weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds must comply with the requirements for safe operation and vehicle safety standards of commercial vehicles prescribed in Parts 392 and 393 of the federal transportation regulations (49 C.F.R.), which, among other issues, relate to sickness or fatigue, alcohol and prohibited substance use, and vehicle equipment and cargo safety.
Additionally, drivers of commercial vehicles engaged in interstate commerce are required to obtain a USDOT number and apply for a United Carrier Registration (UCR). For USDOT/UCR purposes, a “commercial” vehicle includes vehicles operated in commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds. Thus, drivers of covered farm vehicles engaged in interstate travel are generally required to obtain both a USDOT number and a UCR. A person may apply for a DOT number at https://portal.fmcsa.dot.gov/UrsRegistrationWizard/. A person may apply for a UCR at https://plan.ucr.gov/.
Over 26,000 pounds
Drivers of registered covered farm vehicles and combinations whose actual weight or weight rating is over 26,000 pounds are exempt from requirements for medical examination and certification, random and post-accident drug and alcohol testing, “hours of service” (driver logs and work time and driving time limitations), and driver daily inspections and written safety reporting of operated vehicles, whenever the vehicle or combination is operated within 150 air miles of the farm of the owner of the vehicle.
The farmer or any family member or employee of the farmer can qualify for such exemptions. But the driver exemptions described above no longer apply when the driver operates the same farm vehicle or combination beyond 150 miles of the vehicle owner’s farm.
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) – Over or Under 26,000 pounds
Except for transportation requiring display of hazmat placards, drivers of covered farm vehicles engaged in interstate travel are exempted from CFL requirements, regardless of the distance the vehicle or combination is operated away from the farm, if operating an actual weight and weight rating of 26,000 pounds or less. Drivers of covered farm vehicles operating over 26,000 pounds are exempted from CDL requirements if within 150 air miles of the farm of the owner of the vehicle.
“Destination State” Registration Requirements
While registered farm vehicles also enjoy numerous transportation-related exemptions in their state of registration, such vehicles are not automatically considered to be legally registered in adjoining or nearby states traveled to (“destination states”). To alleviate this problem, many states have signed formal reciprocity agreements recognizing each other’s farm-registered vehicles. Pennsylvania has formal reciprocity agreements with New York and New Jersey, recognizing each state’s farm vehicle registrations.
Relatedly, some states have informally indicated, often under the framework of the International Registration Plan and communicated through their respective Department of Transportation, that they will recognize each state’s farm vehicle registrations. Ohio, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia have indicated informally that they would recognize Pennsylvania’s registered farm vehicles when traveling into their states, provided that the vehicles are operating within the parameters of Pennsylvania law.
Of note, reciprocity and informal agreements are generally limited to registration issues and may not cover related issues, such as highway use taxes. For example, while New York’s heavy use tax contains an exemption for farm vehicles, the exemption’s scope is not identical to how Pennsylvania characterizes “farm vehicles.” Therefore, there may be some unique situations where a Pennsylvania farm vehicle may legally travel into New York but still be subject to New York’s heavy use tax.
International Fuel Use Tax Agreement (IFTA)
Pennsylvania registered farm vehicles, engaged in interstate travel, with a registered weight over 26,000 pounds (or with three or more total axles) must comply with International Fuel Use Tax Agreement (IFTA) requirements, including obtaining an IFTA decal for the vehicle and filing quarterly fuel tax returns, unless expressly exempted by the state in which the farm vehicle or combination is operated. IFTA may be complied with by filing applications and tax returns with the owner’s home state. For farm vehicles that make sporadic interstate trips, the owner may obtain individual trip permits from those states where the vehicle will be operated. New York and New Jersey have indicated generally they will exempt out-of-state trucks with farm registrations from IFTA requirements.
Penn State Extension provides an online center for all issues regarding farm safety and health for agricultural families. The center provides information about the Farm / Agriculture / Rural Management Hazardous Analysis Tool, an evaluation system that provides users with critical safety and health information using minimal text.
The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network (CASN) is a coalition of organizations that work together to help keep children safe on the farm. CASN provides guidance for farm families seeking information to strengthen on-farm safety protocols.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides a resource guide about farm safety departments and extension programs throughout the nation. Also listed are links to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) center for approved farm safety practices.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine administers MedlinePlus, a health information database with information specifically for farmers. Topics range from issues on back pain, dust and molds, eye protection to farm animals. Additionally, the webpage provides links to experts on farm health in within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rural Road Safety Program
by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
A library on both federal and state youth labor requirements, YouthRules! is the leading source of information regarding farm laws regarding youth employment.