2010-03-25 / Features

Updated Motor Carrier Regulations To Enhance Safety

Without causing undue burdens on farms or businesses

Pennsylvania is meeting a federal deadline to update its Motor Carrier Safety regulations while ensuring that the rules do not place an onerous burden on farmers or businesses, state officials said Monday.

The process to change the state’s regulations began after a March 2007 audit cited a number of noncompliance issues. Pennsylvania is one of nearly 25 states that have been audited.

Pennsylvania had to update its Motor Carrier Safety regulations by March 31 to avoid federal penalties, including the loss of approximately $6 million in federal funds, which support State Police Motor Carrier En- forcement. The loss of that funding could have jeopardized an effective Motor Carrier Enforcement program, which would have triggered additional penalties, including the loss of about $22 million in federal highway funds.

“Our regulations were behind the times, and we have met the goal of creating an effective and fair playing field to keep our highways safe,” said Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “Many aspects of the rules will not change, and the new sections offer a reasonable, safe, compliant and enforceable solution designed first, and foremost, to ensure the safety of all of our motor carriers and the traveling public.”

Biehler was joined by State Police Commissioner Col. Frank E. Pawlowski and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding at a news conference in Harrisburg Monday.

“Having up-to-date Motor Carrier Safety regulations is crucial for ensuring the safety of everyone on Pennsylvania roadways,” Pawlowski said. “Effective enforcement can prevent instances of trucks with faulty brakes and other maintenance problems from triggering crashes. We will work with the farm community so they understand the reasons behind the rules and make clear we are partners, not adversaries.”

“We ask our farm community to take the time to understand the changes and work with us to ensure our farm families and all drivers are as safe as possible on Pennsylvania roadways,” Redding said.

Harvest season extended

Redding pointed out that the commonwealth has taken steps to ensure farmers are not overly burdened by the Motor Carrier Safety regulations. One example is that the rules provide some exemptions during the growing season, which the commonwealth is now extending yearround instead of just for nine months.

“Today, farming is a 24-hourper day, seven-day-a-week responsibility with no off-season,” Redding said. “Having a planting and harvesting season in Pennsylvania that is year-round supports Pennsylvania producers in their efforts to compete in national and global marketplaces.”

Other states, including Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, already designate harvest seasons covering the calendar year.

Redding said that the new Motor Carrier Safety rules do not apply to farm tractors and other farm equipment in tow that travel on roadways. Pennsylvania law already permits such non-truck vehicles on the roads. Licensed drivers under 18 can continue to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles under 17,000 pounds, he added.

Among the changes in the new rules which now comply with federal standards:

Persons under the age of 18 are not permitted to drive a truck-trailer farm vehicle combination exceeding 17,000 pounds on public roads.

Operators of single-unit farm vehicles traveling more than 150 miles from the farm must possess a medical certification.

A record of vehicle maintenance must be kept for a single unit farm vehicle exceeding 17,000 pounds operating under a certificate of exemption.

A pre- and post-trip inspection must be completed for a single unit farm vehicle greater than 17,000 pounds operating under a certificate of exemption.

Among the exemptions included in the rules:

Hours of service requirements and the keeping of logs and time records are waived during the growing season, while operating within a 100-mile radius.

Pre-employment road testing and obtaining driving history requirements for drivers of farm vehicles are waived. The vehicle must be operated within 150 miles of the farm in order for this waiver to apply.

Non-Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) farm truck drivers who operate beyond the 100-mile radius but within 150 miles of their normal work reporting location will not be required to keep logs, but will be subject to hours limitations and time keeping requirements.

Operators of single-unit farm vehicles within 150 miles of the farm are exempt from possessing a medical certification.

Much of what was in the former regulations continue unchanged, including rules covering inspections and record keeping for any vehicle weighing more than 17,000 pounds.

Federal funding is essential for Motor Carrier Enforcement efforts in Pennsylvania. For example, in January state police stopped two tractor trailers carrying more than three tons of illicit drugs worth approximately $25 million on Interstate 81 near Harrisburg.

“Effective and common sense Motor Carrier Safety regulations contribute to a safe driving experience for everyone,” Pawlowski said. “We will work with the farm and truck communities to ensure drivers understand the rules and appreciate that our efforts are intended to help, not impede, Pennsylvania’s economy.”

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