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August 1, 2011

Bullock Says Proposed Federal Rule Requiring Farmers and Ranchers to Obtain CDL “Bad for Montana’s Economy”

HELENA –– Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock today cautioned federal officials that any broad regulations requiring farmers and ranchers to obtain a commercial driver license would negatively impact the top sector of Montana’s economy –

family farms and ranches.  Bullock’s comments were in response to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) requested guidance on the applicability of the agency’s regulations with regard to farm vehicles and off-road agricultural equipment.

In a letter sent to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro on Monday, Bullock wrote that “one-size-fits-all” regulations wouldn’t work for Montana producers.

Bullock’s concern is that broad application of the FMCSA regulations could effectively require farmers and ranchers who haul their goods to market and occasionally drive farm equipment on public roads to get a commercial driver license (CDL)—and to abide by the additional responsibilities of obtaining and maintaining a CDL—an unfair and unnecessary burden.  Historically, states have been allowed to waive the requirement for agricultural producers travelling less than 150 miles to market and not crossing state borders.

“The historical exemption we have enjoyed has benefitted Montana farmers and ranchers and our economy, and that exemption or something very similar needs to stay intact,” Bullock wrote.

As Attorney General, Bullock oversees both the Montana Highway Patrol and the Montana Motor Vehicle Division, so he is well aware of roadway and roadside safety issues.

Federal officials cited safety concerns in proposing the new rules, but sweeping changes ignore the reality in rural America, Bullock said.

“There may be issues arising in expanding urban areas or in operations sitting at or near a state border.  However, this is not a case where one size fits all,” Bullock wrote.  “Montana is a state of 145,000 square miles and a population density of six people per square mile.  Broad regulations that would have the effect of undermining our farm vehicle exemption would negatively affect Montana’s farms and ranches, the top sector of my state’s economy.”

FMCSA accepted public comment on this subject through Monday.  Bullock’s letter to Administrator Ferro is online (/news/docs/20110801ferroletter.pdf).