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Cash Market Moves             04/06 11:08

   NGFA, Ag Groups Ask States to Raise and Harmonize Truck Weight Limits

   Many states have increased truck weight limits to help trucks that are 
hauling goods during the coronavirus pandemic, but the industry wants an equal 
weight established for all 50 states.

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Cash Grains Analyst

   The federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) was 
signed into law on March 26 and includes language requested by the Department 
of Transportation (DOT) to clarify state authority to issue special permits for 
increased truck weight. Under either a "major Disaster" or "emergency," states 
can issue special permits for heavier trucks to deliver relief supplies, 
ensuring the validity of state-issued special permits. The U.S. DOT authority 
allows states to "increase truck weight limits on U.S. and federal interstate 
highways within their jurisdictions during the COVID-19 emergency."

   Many states have temporarily suspended rules regarding oversized and 
overweight loads of food, medical supplies and other household goods, and 
basically any goods needed during the pandemic. Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, 
Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Nebraska, Illinois, South Carolina, 
Wisconsin and Missouri are some of the states that allowed permitted weight 
changes, but many of them are not in harmony as far as weight limits. That can 
cause an issue for drivers who load heavy in one state but may need to cross in 
to a state that has different weight limits.

   On March 30, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and more than 60 
national agricultural groups urged each state to increase truck weight limits 
on highways within their jurisdiction to a "minimum harmonized weight" of 
88,000 pounds.

   "Increased truck weights improve the food and agriculture industry's 
efficiency and capacity to deliver essential food, feed and key ingredients 
which sustain our food supply chain," the groups said in a letter to all state 
governors, lieutenant governors, transportation directors and agriculture 
commissioners. "This will become more critical if the availability of truck 
drivers is impacted adversely by COVID-19," noted the letter. Here is a link to 
the letter: https://www.dtn.com/ag/assets/Truck_Weight_Harmonization.pdf 

   In an April 2 webinar, sponsored by the NGFA, Max Fisher, NGFA vice 
president of economics and government relations, provided an overview on hours 
of service, truck weight and licensing changes amid the challenging COVID-19 
landscape. "I recommend that anyone who wants to use these higher limits to 
reach out to your state department of transportation to verify the products 
that qualify for these higher weight limits, if your state has raised them," 
Fisher said to the more than 900 attendees on the webinar.

   "Many states already have increased truck weight limits on some or all of 
the highways within their state," said Fisher. "NGFA and other agricultural 
organizations are encouraging state governments to raise truck weight limits to 
a minimum of 88,000 pounds on all of the roads within their state, while 
respecting bridge and posted seasonal or special road and/or local limitations."


   The NGFA also noted that for first time ever at the national level and 
through at least April 12, U.S. DOT has waived hours-of-service (HOS) rules for 
drivers transporting "essential items" for the pandemic relief effort, noted 
the NGFA during the webinar.

   -- Some examples of essential items are all medical supplies, supplies and 
equipment necessary for community safety, fuel and food, paper products and 
other groceries for emergency restocking.

   -- Drivers do not need an official document to use the waiver for the 
pandemic relief effort.

   -- U.S. DOT has specifically listed livestock, animal feed and fertilizer as 
eligible for HOS relief because they are "precursor" to "essential items," 
i.e., food. However, pet food is listed as ineligible.

   -- Note: drivers transporting agricultural commodities, such as grain and 
feed, but not including processed products, already were exempt from HOS rules 
as long as they are within 150 air miles of the origin of the load.

   On the issue of pet food being ineligible for the HOS relief, Fisher noted 
that, "One would think that if fertilizers are considered a precursor to food, 
and feed is considered a precursor to food that grain would be as well. 
Unfortunately, that's a bit of a gray area and we've asked USDA if they would 
be willing to reach out to U.S. DOT to get that clarified, but U.S. DOT still 
has not."

   In addition, the NGFA, along with multiple food and ag groups, wrote a 
letter on March 25 to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 
noting that the HOS relief was insufficient to adequately encompass the major 
beginning and middle segments of the food and agricultural supply chain. "Our 
members already are experiencing a tightening in trucking capacity and 
disruptions in truck transport in certain states and regions given 
state-imposed restrictions related to COVID-19. To address this situation, we 
strongly urge you to expand and extend the HOS relief from farm-to-fork, 
specifically by including raw and processed agricultural commodities, animal 
food and feed ingredients, processed food and food ingredients, honey bees and 
farm supplies to adequately preserve the resiliency of our nation's food supply 
during the pandemic."

   The letter went on to note that food processers, animal feeding and pet food 
operations require a steady supply of raw and processed agricultural 
commodities, animal food and feed ingredients, and they often are not located 
within 150-air miles of their shipping point. "Further, U.S. agricultural 
exports, and by extension the agriculture supply chain, depend upon the ability 
to efficiently transport agricultural products (food, farm, fiber) to 
international maritime export gateways, by truck, either to seaports or to rail 
ramps, both often well in excess of 150 miles from the origin farms, storage or 
processing facilities," added the NGFA. 

   "We urge FMCSA to extend the hours-of-service relief to include all food and 
agricultural critical infrastructure operations to ensure the viability of the 
food distribution system." Here is a link to the NGFA March 25 letter: 

   With all of the changes taking place recently, Fisher added, "A good 
business practice is to check with your state DOT on changes to the trucking 
rules during COVID-19."

   The NGFA has dedicated space on their website for all COVID-19 industry 

   Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com 

   Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

(BE/SK )   

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