2010-03-11 / Front Page

Farmers Urge Passage Of H.R. 1220

Bill currently before Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

On the heels of a decision by the Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) to approve new transportation regulations that drastically alter requirements on operators of farming equipment, local farmers are being urged this week to take a stand and contact their U.S. congressional representative for relief.

Specifically, farmers as well as members and officials from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau are asking for the timely and prompt passage of H.R. 1220, which would provide “certain exemptions to drivers of intrastate commercial motor vehicles engaged in agricultural purposes.” Furthermore, it establishes a threshold of 26,001 pounds for interstate vehicles and combinations and for operators of such vehicles to perform extensive documentation, testing, certification, inspections and record keeping.

H.R. 1220 was introduced to the House of Representatives by U.S. representatives David Boren (D-Okla.) and Mary Falling (ROkla.) on February 26, 2009. Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District signed on as one of 26 cosponsors on November 5, 2009, in support of H.R. 1220.

The bill remains under review with the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Marlin Lynch, Fulton County Farm Bureau governmental relations director, reported he will be meeting with Shuster later this week to discuss the passage of H.R. 1220.

Lynch told the “News” the IRRC’s decision to comply with findings revealed in an audit by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “is not a good thing as far as agriculture is concerned.” The audit showed Pennsylvania’s standards were not as stringent as those imposed by the federal government, especially in the area of farm machinery and operators.

However, Lynch did note, if the audit suggestions are not enacted by March 31, the commonwealth could potentially lose $3.1 million in federal funding on an annual basis to cover commercial vehicle safety enforcement activities and possibly an additional $22 million in funds.

In the event H.R. 1220 does not meet congressional approval and new IRRC guidelines remain intact as currently presented, regulations could have a drastic effect on the time and finances of local farmers. Even though the exact regulations affecting farm trucks will not be made clear until later this month, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has summarized what it believes to be the requirements for drivers of agricultural vehicles and combinations with an actual weight or weight rating of greater than 17,000 pounds.

In an outline of IRRC’s new legal requirements, the Farm Bureau related Pennsylvania’s new intrastate motor carrier safety regulations would likely exempt implements of husbandry such as tractors, combines and other farm equipment as well as their drivers. Equipment affected would include trucks operating under a farm vehicle exemption sticker or a farm vehicle registration plate.

Under the category of trucks operating under a farm vehicle exemption sticker, an 18-yearminimum age driving requirement applies when a truck is towing another vehicle such as a trailer or implement. In addition, medical certification would only be required for drivers when a vehicle is in the process of towing another vehicle.

Trucks being operated with a farm vehicle registration plate require the driver to be at least 18 years old when driving outside a 150-mile radius of the farm or when towing another vehicle for any type of distance. Medical certification again would be needed when towing another vehicle, regardless of distance, and in instances of travelling outside a 150-mile radius.

Farm truck drivers, whether operating under a exemption sticker or registration plate, will be subject to daily logging and record keeping, the Farm Bureau has determined. Exceptions only apply when ag supplies, products and livestock feed are being hauled within a 100-mile radius or when ag supplies and products are being hauled between March 1 through November 30. Short distance hauls also offer special exemptions.

“The decision to approve these new regulations will place significant and unnecessary hardships on many farmers across Pennsylvania,” concluded Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl T. Shaffer. “ ... No one involved in this regulatory process has pointed to safety issues involving farm vehicles as a reason for the changes. We believe that the new regulations are an answer to a problem that does not exist.”

Shuster followed up on the Farm Bureau’s commentary telling the “News” he is “extremely concerned” by the new regulations as they will have a significant impact on Pennsylvania’s farmers.

“I was proud to cosponsor H.R. 1220, along with many of my colleagues in the Pennsylvania delegation, legislation that would provide an exemption to drivers engaged in agriculturalrelated activities. I have also contact PennDOT and the U.S. Department of Transportation to express my concerns and am working closely with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the rest of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to find much-needed relief for our farmers,” Shuster stated

Residents interested in voicing their concerns about the proposed IRRC guidelines and H.R. 1220 should contact Congressman Bill Shuster at his Chambersburg office at 100 Lincoln Way East, Suite B, Chambersburg, PA 17201 or by calling 717- 264-8308.

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