The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety this week sent a letter to leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urging them to repeal the driver hours-of-service exemptions for agriculture and utility drivers.

CVSA and Advocates want Congress to adopt a proposal that any segment of the trucking industry that has previously received a safety exemption, whether by regulation or statute, be required to re-apply for such exemption through the regulatory process.

SAFETEA-LU, the multi-year, omnibus transportation authorization adopted in 2005, exempted agricultural carriers from the hours-of-service regulations if they operated only within a 100-mile radius from their central base of operation. It also exempted utility service vehicle drivers from all hours-of-service regulations. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center found that crash rates, violations and out of service rates for these two industry segments have increased substantially since the exemptions became effective after the passage of SAFETEA-LU, according to CVSA.

"It is clear from the Volpe Center safety performance data that the safety record of these industry segments is increasingly poor and, therefore, they should not be exempted from the hours-of-service regulations," said Stephen F. Campbell, Executive Director of CVSA.

The letter also emphasizes a concern that the increased number and variety of exemptions granted through federal legislation in recent authorization bills has increased the difficulty of law enforcement officials to properly enforce commercial motor vehicle safety regulations.

Agricultural transporters responded by forming the Agricultural Education Group, with the mission of protecting and preserving the agricultural exemption to the hours of service rules.

"Congress was correct in enacting the agricultural exemption to the federal hours of service rules for truck drivers in 2005," said David Schroyer, president of Schroyer Inc., in Celina, Ohio. "It applies to only agricultural commodities transported within a 100-air mile radius from the point of harvest to the point of processing, and farm supplies during the planting and harvest seasons, as determined by each. It is critical that agriculture in the United States is able to depend on this exemption to move their commodities from farm to fork."

Supporters of the exemption say it is imperative that commercial transporters of agricultural commodities and farm supplies have the flexibility to transport efficiently during peak planting and harvesting seasons.