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Michigan farmers must comply with truck identification policies
By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. — More time will be allowed for phase-in of truck identification regulations for intrastate carriers.

In October 2005, a regulation was passed requiring all commercial vehicles, including farm trucks, to have vehicle markings consistent with federal regulations. That means any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more must be clearly identified with the name, city, state and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number on both sides of the power unit - visible from 50 feet when stationary.

“Prior to that time frame, all farm-plated vehicles were exempted from truck identification in the state of Michigan as long as you didn’t cross the state line,” said Matt Smego, associate legislative counsel with Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB).

The rule change would include all farm trucks such as grain haulers, livestock trucks and trailers or trucks hauling flatbed units. Smego said the 10,000-pound rule is a “loaded or empty rate” for the “capacity the vehicle can carry.”

For example, he said a livestock hauler would be required to meet the regulation if the loaded capacity of their truck and trailer exceeded the 10,000-pound mark.

Smego said the Michigan State Police (MSP) Motor Carrier Division has provided the state’s largest farm organization with a phase-in plan for the USDOT portion of the regulation.

The plan calls for the MSP Motor Carrier Division to have a USDOT number unit to assist motor carriers in registering for intrastate DOT numbers by Dec. 1. Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, motor carriers will be advised to start registering for a DOT number.

All motor carriers will be required to have a DOT number by Jan. 1, 2008.

By Jan. 1, 2009, motor carriers must have trucks lettered with appropriate information. Farmers can provide name, city, state and USDOT number or just the name and USDOT number as required by federal law. Magnetic signs are allowed.

Smego said, while the MSP Motor Carrier division is allowing this phase-in time, not all local law enforcement agencies are doing the same.

Some local agencies are already issuing tickets for non-compliance. “They are within their legal rights,” Smego said. “But from the MSP Motor Carrier Division, they shouldn’t have any problems.

“We’ve been informed that tickets will not be issued by them until Jan. 1, 2009,” Smego said.

He said it’s important to remember “implements of husbandry,” such as tractors or combines, “are still exempt.” He said registering for a USDOT number “may take a while.” In general, farm operators are exempt from much of the paperwork typically required of a company that uses commercial motor vehicles. However, all the requirements of various exemptions must be met to qualify for the exemption.

The “F” or farm endorsement is not a CDL and drug and alcohol testing is not required for drivers who meet the “F” endorsement. Any driver who operates a vehicle that is required to have a CDL must be in a drug and alcohol testing program and the company must have a number of records related to that program.

State law exempts intrastate farm vehicle drivers from maintaining driver qualification files. To qualify for this exemption, a farm vehicle driver must use a commercial motor vehicle only for agricultural products, farm machinery, farm supplies and other similar uses to and from a farm, not operate for-hire, not transport hazardous materials in an amount that requires placards and remain within a 150-mile radius of the farm.

For interstate farm vehicle drivers, single vehicle drivers are exempt from all driver qualification requirements. Combination vehicle drivers are exempt from keeping driver qualification files, but they must obtain and carry a medical certificate. If any farm vehicle driver exemptions are not met, companies are required to maintain driver files on each driver operating a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

The regulation also requires annual vehicle inspections.

Unless the company or farmer has only one vehicle in its operation, each unit must have an annual inspection on the vehicle and documentation in a vehicle maintenance file. Maintenance records on each vehicle also are required.

More information about truck identification requirements may be found on the Michigan Farm Bureau website at www.michiganfarmbureau.com

To obtain a USDOT number visit: http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov and click on FMCSA Registration and Updates or call 800-832-5660.

This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

9/13/2006