To comply with the rule, custom harvest companies would have to hire seasonal labor as much as two months prior to harvest season at an added cost of up to $8,000 per driver, says Tony Rattei, a custom harvester in Seminole, Texas, and a director for U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc.Rattei
, in a letter to the FMCSA, said custom harvest companies currently have an exemption from some driver qualification rules."I would ask FMCSA to use wording similar to our 391.2 exemption when identifying certain farm related service industry drivers," he
recommends the exemption specifically state that for farm custom operation the proposed rules not apply to a driver who drives a commercial motor vehicle controlled and operated by a person engaged in custom harvesting operations, if the commercial motor vehicle is used to:
• Transport farm machinery, supplies or both to or from a farm for custom harvesting operations on a farm; and transport farm machinery from one farm to another farm across state lines; or,
• Transport custom harvested crops to storage or market."Rattei
offers several reasons for an exemption.
"After the U.S. custom harvester pays for the training of entry level U.S. drivers, and pays all expenses to obtain a CDL, approximately 50 percent of the entry level U.S. drivers will quit custom harvesters and go to work for trucking companies, which are not seasonal," Rattei
And that's just for U.S. employees.The problems increase with immigrant labor."Some of the drivers are H2-A temporary workers from a foreign country and the custom harvester helps them obtain a non-resident CDL, good only for the length of their work visa, normally six to eleven months," he
says the custom harvester industry safety record also should encourage an exemption."Custom harvester trucks are used less than 20,000 miles per year on public roads, so the accident rate is low because of limited exposure."He
says loads are typically hauled less than 30 miles, "except when moving equipment across state lines," from farm to farm.
"They are always under direct supervision of the custom harvester."Rattei
says the effect of the rule would be far reaching.
encouraged other custom harvesters to contact FMCSA to express their views on the issue.