Fruit and Vegetable Industry Groups Push for Modified Transport Rules

Twenty-four organizations representing growers, shippers, and other entities throughout the produce marketing supply chain petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 15, 2019, to modify the hours of service (HOS) and electronic logging device (ELD) rules for perishable fruit and vegetable commodities.

“This is necessary because growers and shippers continue to face challenges across the supply chain in dealing with perishable commodities,” says Robert Guenther, senior vice president of Public Policy at Washington D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, one of the organizations that filed the petition.

Many challenges have resulted from current HOS and ELD rules, which became effective in July 2013. For instance, they don’t allow a driver to turn off the ELD when stopping to rest along a route, and unplanned rest periods count against the overall 14 hours of on-duty service allowed per day. “This has created longer loading and unloading times, and uncertainty with loading schedules,” Guenther says. “There have been certain exemptions to the rules for agricultural commodities, but it isn’t enough.”

The petitioners also requested that drivers who are within 150 miles of their delivery point be allowed to complete their trip, regardless of HOS requirements (if delivery takes place on any day beyond the original departure work period), according to a statement issued by The Produce Marketing Association, which also signed the petition.

In 2018, the Department of Transportation released a proposed rulemaking process to further change the current regulations. “New rules and regulations bring new challenges and new opportunities,” Guenther says.

Consumers would benefit from the petition’s requests because current HOS and ELD requirements contribute to higher volumes of food waste, and delays in shipping and delivery can destroy quality fresh fruits and vegetables. “Adhering to these modifications would create greater certainty that the produce the public consumes is safe,” Guenther says.

The Produce Marketing Association’s statement also noted that requirements which delay delivery are inconsistent with other federal regulations governing the sanitary transportation of food, such as those in the Food Safety Modernization Act. “Given the pervasive driver shortages which plague many who rely on truck transportation, the provisions sought in the petition will help provide targeted regulatory relief while still preserving public safety,” the statement said.