The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Thursday released an interim final rule on the definition of an agricultural commodity for use in determining which products are eligible to be hauled under the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truck drivers.

The rule would include live chickens in the definition of agricultural commodity, making live-haul trips exempt from current hours-of-service rules. Frozen product is not included within the definition of agricultural commodity.

FMCSA began the rulemaking process in 2019, releasing a proposed rule for public comment. However, once the COVID-19 national emergency was announced on March 13, 2020, FMCSA on April 8 provided an Hours of Service National Emergency Declaration, which expanded the exemption to hours-of-service rules during the emergency. This declaration was extended on May 13, July 13, August 11 and September 11, 2020. The interim final rule would make these changes permanent.

The agricultural exemption provides that HOS regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities by truck drivers operating completely within the 150 air-mile radius of the source of origin. Therefore, work and driving hours that occur within that radius are not counted toward a driver’s daily limit of 11 hours or on-duty limit of 14 hours.

The new definition of agricultural commodity will go into effect 15 days after publication of the interim final rule. FMCSA is provided 30 days for public comments prior to publication.

The interim final rule can be found here.