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Exemptions from Pennsylvania intrastate commercial trucking regulations have been once again restored for Pennsylvania farm trucks and farm truck combinations with an actual weight or weight rating of 26,000 pounds or less operated exclusively within the state, as well as drivers of these vehicles. Provisions of Act 81, which legislatively restored these exemptions, went into effect on December 18.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania rescinded the exemptions for agriculture, believing that the Commonwealth would otherwise lose federal highway safety funds. However, in response to inquiries by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) confirmed that individual states may provide exemptions for intrastate farm vehicles and drivers at or below the 26,000-pound threshold that are not transporting hazardous materials in quantities that require the vehicle to be placarded without forfeiting federal monies. Act 81 provided the broadest exemption for farm vehicles and drivers allowed under federal law.

Because of Act 81, farmers and drivers of "nonhazardous" farm trucks with a weight and weight rating are at or below 26,000 pounds around the farm will no longer have to comply with the burdensome federal requirements that are imposed on commercial trucking companies and drivers - minimum age, medical certification, written driver's hour logs, and daily driver vehicle inspections and written reports of vehicle defects and repairs.

Farmers and drivers of farm trucks and farm truck combinations greater than 26,000 pounds still need to comply with the requirements of Pennsylvania's revised intrastate regulations, and understand what requirements may apply to particular local transportation activities. Exemptions for drivers of these vehicles will only be able to be restored through a change in federal statute. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau continues to urge Congress to enact legislation to allow states receiving federal MCSAP funding to provide these reasonable exemptions to drivers of farm trucks over 26,000 pounds as well.

You also must keep in mind that the truck and driver exemptions provided under Act 81 only apply to the operation of trucks with a farm vehicle registration (farm plate) and biennial certificate of exemption (farm sticker). Vehicles and drivers of vehicles with regular commercial truck registrations will need to comply with the requirements imposed under the revised intrastate regulations whenever the vehicle (or combination) has an actual weight or weight rating of greater than 17,000 pounds and whenever the vehicle is carrying hazardous materials in quantities that require the vehicle to display hazardous material placards.

The following is an overview of how the regulatory changes may affect your operation.