The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a measure to continue the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulatory hours of service exemption for individuals hauling farm supplies and agricultural commodities. The bipartisan amendment was offered by Reps. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) and Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), and it was approved by a voice vote.
The Bereuter-Stenholm amendment was offered in the House during debate on the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act — A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU). This amendment continues the DOT agricultural exemption from hours of service rules for truck drivers, and it prohibits the exemption from being revoked.
“This is an important issue for farmers and others in rural areas who are involved in agriculture,” Stenholm said. “Farmers and ranchers don't have the luxury of working 10 or 12 hour days during the busy planting and harvesting season. We work round the clock, often with perishable items.”
“As a farmer, I know we have to get our seeds in the ground and reap what we sow when the weather cooperates — often times we have less than a two-week window to get it done,” Stenholm said. “Producers and farm input suppliers around the country need this regulatory relief so they can continue operating under the current hours of service exemption.”
Earlier in the week, prior to the vote, Stenholm joined House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in sending a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bob Young (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), urging their support for this measure.
Similar exemptions are included in the Senate version of the surface transportation reauthorization bill that was approved on Feb. 12. The House approved its version of TEA-LU, including the Bereuter-Stenholm amendment approved the previous day, on April 2. It now is up to a House/Senate conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate bills and produce a final version for both chambers to approve, before it is sent to the president to sign into law.