Ask The Safety Rep: Changes in Agricultural Commodity Rules



Yes: On November 24, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a notice in the Federal Register clarifying the meaning of three terms used in the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of the agency’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. The three terms that were revised include “any agricultural commodity,” “livestock,” and “non-processed food.” The revised meanings of these terms went into effect on December 9, 2020; the revisions ensure that the HOS exemptions are utilized as Congress intended.

The revised definitions are as follows:

  • Any agricultural commodity – The update defines any agricultural commodity as horticultural products at risk of perishing or degrading in quality during transport by commercial motor vehicle, including plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees.
  • Livestock – The update defines livestock the same as the term is defined in Section 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] as insects and all other living animals, including aquatic animals, cultivated, grown, or raised for commercial purposes.
  • Non-processed food – The update defines non-processed food as food commodities in a raw or natural state and not subjected to significant post-harvest changes to enhance shelf life, such as canning, jarring, freezing, or drying. The term non-processed food includes fresh fruits and vegetables and cereal and oilseed crops that have been minimally processed by cleaning, cooling, trimming, cutting, chopping, shucking, bagging, or packaging to facilitate transport by commercial motor vehicle.

Because the new rule also expands the definition of “livestock,” it adds to the list of drivers who are exempt from the FMCSA’s requirement for 30-minute breaks. Section 395.1(v) says livestock haulers are exempt from 30-minute breaks as long as they have animals on the vehicle.

Be aware that transporting frozen, cut beef does not qualify under the new definition. However, unfrozen raw meat from the source of the cutting/rendering plant is exempt. To view the notice in full, go to:


  • Educate all operational personnel and drivers of the definition changes.

  • Review your log auditing procedures to ensure compliance.

  • Update your Hours of Service policy to reflect the changes. 


Note: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.


The information in this article is provided as a courtesy of Great West Casualty Company and is part of the Value-Driven® Company program. Value-Driven Company was created to help educate and inform insureds so they can make better decisions, build a culture that values safety, and manage risk more effectively. To see what additional resources Great West Casualty Company can provide for its insureds, please contact your safety representative, or click below to find an agent.

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