Labor, Trucking Are Center Stage
By Craig Regelbrugge
Hello folks! The bulk of this article will cover the status of the trucking regulation changes (be glad if you are not a spring shipper, as you will have more time for things to settle out!)
But first, a quick labor reform update. As you know, the Senate failed to do a DACA fix. And now, a decision by the Supreme Court not to take up a DACA-related challenge now, but to let it wend its way through the lower courts, has taken much of the pressure off of Congress.
Still, Rep. Bob Goodlatte keeps pushing his vast enforcement bill, H.R.4760, but at least as of now, it lacks the votes to be brought to the floor. The bill does include an agricultural component that has some attractive features but also some deep (some would say fatal) flaws that Mr. Goodlatte has not been willing to address. We’ll know in the next few weeks whether anything moves.
Meanwhile, we’re putting our money on expected Trump Administration efforts to seek to improve the functioning of the H-2A program as the place where progress is most likely anytime soon.
On to trucking. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) public comment period regarding the transportation of agricultural commodities associated with the new hours of service rules/electronic logging device (ELD) mandate ended on February 20. AmericanHort submitted official comments advocating for nursery, greenhouse, and Christmas tree farmers back in January.
FMCSA had issued a request for public comment and notice of proposed regulatory guidance late last year, as it was looking to clarify and have consistent understanding of the applicability of the agricultural exemption.
AmericanHort, like many other industry groups at the moment, is advocating for an inclusive definition that specifically includes all of our stakeholders engaged in plant crop production. We have also sought intervention by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Discussions between USDA and the Department of Transportation are ongoing, as a better, more inclusive definition is sought.
In related news that might help the current situation, the new administrator for FMCSA, Raymond Martinez, was finally confirmed by voice vote in the Senate on February 13. Martinez was previously chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and stated in his confirmation hearing that the ELD mandate will proceed but was willing to listen to concerns by groups affected by the mandate. With FMCSA now having a confirmed administrator in place, it will hopefully expedite guidance on the agricultural exemption, as well as guidance and flexibility for the overarching ELD mandate.
Be aware that that the end of the “soft period” of enforcement currently ends on April 1. The states have either delayed writing tickets for the ELD altogether until April 1, or are leaving ticket writing to the discretion of individual officers. Where does your state currently stand? Check the map provided by Overdrive: Click Here