March 23, 2020
Mr. Jim Mullen
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Acting Administrator Mullen:
On behalf of the two thousand farmer-owned cooperatives across the country, and the two million farmers and ranchers who belong to them, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC)¹ appreciates action taken by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) to keep critical goods moving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you are aware, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated all aspects of the agriculture supply chain as critical infrastructure. However, there is broad concern among our members, who work in virtually every segment of the food production process, of their ability to move essential farm supplies and bulk agricultural commodities. This is especially acute given we are entering the busy planting season and will have a narrow window to get this year’s crop in the ground.
Given the already short supply of available drivers, and the likelihood of ever fewer drivers as the virus spreads, we ask that FMCSA provide further flexibility to its regulations that would: 1) update FMCSA’s emergency declaration that waives the Hours of Service (HOS) requirements for medical equipment, food and fuel to also include farm supplies and agricultural commodities (49 CFR 395.1); and, 2) provide some relief to Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements.
One specific barrier to CDLs that is time critical, is the requirement for a DOT health card. It has become increasingly difficult to receive a medical examiners certificate as routine visits to health care facilities have been curtailed. This is especially urgent to address for extending expiring CDLs, as well as for those individuals that previously held CDLs (which would allow for an additional source of drivers). Exploring how to expedite new CDLs also seems warranted. Similarly, temporarily waiving mandatory drug testing would also
provide some necessary relief.
We appreciate the work of FMCSA and other Federal agencies in taking swift action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles F. Conner
President & CEO
¹ Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives – businesses owned and controlled by farmers, ranchers, and growers – are an important part of the success of American agriculture. NCFC members include regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of approximately 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 17 state and regional councils of cooperatives.