Pennsylvania to exempt farm trucks from safety rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has warned Pennsylvania if it enacts proposed legislation to exempt farm vehicles from updated motor carrier safety regulations, it would cost the state $28 million in annual federal aid.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced March 29 the FMCSA had notified it over proposed legislation that seeks to exclude farm vehicles and drivers from the new safety rules. The legislation, however, does not appear to have been introduced.

Pennsylvania updated its Motor Carrier Safety regulations to comply with federal law after a March 2007 federal audit cited non-compliance issues in Pennsylvania, one of nearly 25 states it audited.

PennDOT and other state agencies worked with the FMCSA to develop regulations, which were approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission on Feb. 25. Under the new rules, drivers younger than 18 are not allowed to drive truck-trailer combinations exceeding 17,000 pounds on public roads.

In a move to help farmers, Pennsylvania extended its growing season from nine to 12 months, which Maryland, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia have done. Hours of service requirements are waived during the growing season while operating within a 100-mile radius of the farm.

Other exemptions include waiving of pre-employment road testing and obtaining driving history requirements for drivers of farm vehicles, if operated within 150 miles of the farm.

The new rules include requiring:
• Operators of single-unit farm vehicles traveling more than 150 miles from the farm to have medical certification.
• A record of vehicle maintenance for a single unit farm and a pre-and-post trip inspection for a vehicle exceeding 17,000 pounds operating under a certificate of exemption.

On March 29, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau announced it expected legislation to be introduced raising the weight threshold from 17,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds for farm vehicles.