WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is taking the U.S. Department of Transportation to task over a proposal that would treat farmers and ranchers who drive tractors, haul trailers or operate farm vehicles on public roads like commercial truck drivers. This onerous regulation would place another unnecessary burden on Montana’s farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses. Rehberg expressed his concerns in a letter to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro.
“This proposed rule makes no sense for Montana, where ag is our top industry,” said Rehberg, a fifth-generation Montana rancher. “Montana’s hard working farmers and ranchers have enough on their plates without having to worry about reporting to the government every time the wheels of their tractor touch the road. The bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. need to recognize that one-size-fits-all regulations create barriers that can hinder our economy and our future. Driving a farm vehicle down a country road in eastern Montana is a whole lot different than driving it through Times Square in New York City.”
If approved, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal will eliminate the state’s ability to grant commercial driver’s licenses exemptions for farm vehicles, such as tractors, trailers, combines, and pickup trucks that routinely use public roads to travel between fields, transport farm equipment and deliver goods to market. Montana and other Western states, including North Dakota, exempt ag producers from the commercial licensing requirements if they only drive short distances. These new proposals would require farmers and ranchers to purchase commercial driver’s licenses, submit health records, maintain log books and would prevent farm hands under the age of 18 from operating the vehicles on the roads.
The new regulations would also expand the federal government’s authority in intrastate commerce. In his letter, Rehberg urged FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro to abandon any plans to over-regulate the agriculture community and further erode state’s rights.
“Farm vehicle operation is not a problem in Montana,” said Jake Cummins, executive vice president, Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “This is a big state and agricultural activities take place in every part of the state every day. Our farmers and ranchers can’t work if they can’t drive and they can’t drive if they have to fill out a form every time they open a gate.”