(NOVEMBER 19) – On Thursday, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an interim final rule (IFR) clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.
Unfortunately, the revised definition of what constitutes a “non-processed” food product paves the way for inconsistent roadside enforcement for transporters of beef and meat products. The Agency defines “non-processed food” to mean food commodities in a raw or natural state and not subjected to significant post-harvest changes to enhance shelf life. The IFR also states that “it is difficult to determine precisely the point at which food commodities are no longer ‘non-processed’” and that “some degree of enforcement discretion must be expected in determining whether the exemption applies.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker issued this statement following the release of the interim final rule:
“For several years, USCA has specifically requested FMCSA provide clear, consistent regulatory definitions for transporters of live animals and/or beef. Both are highly perishable commodities, and the lack of clarity surrounding these definitions has held up numerous drivers over the years facing errant roadside enforcement.
“The interim final rule issued today actually made current HOS regulations stricter, as it excludes frozen foods from current exemptions. There is no way for a driver to prove that a load they are carrying in a refrigerated truck is NOT frozen without risking rejection of the load by breaking the seal and opening the boxed meat.
“USCA’s Transportation Committee will meet in the days ahead to review our formal response to this interim final rule. These definitions and regulatory changes will impact each and every driver hauling boxed beef and trim. As a producer or livestock hauler, you cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while these discussions are happening. Get the word out to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and help us build a better business environment for independent livestock haulers and producers.”