Policy Analysis | October 2018

CDL Waivers for the Agriculture Industry

Anne Roberts Brody

Transportation facilitates agriculture development by linking farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service industries to grain elevators, processors, feedlots, markets, ports, rail, and barge facilities. Because agriculture requires large amounts of fertilizers and chemicals, it needs motor carriers that can safely haul hazardous materials. However, obtaining and maintaining a commercial drivers license can be costly and time consuming.

The inherently seasonal nature of agriculture requires drivers to be available to transport freshly harvested crops, or to provide fuel to implements of husbandry in a timely fashion. Delays caused by driver or vehicle shortages can be costly, resulting in spoiled crops and/or reduced returns. Likewise, the seasonal nature of this work means that farmers, farm workers and certain farm-related service industries need the ability to transport these goods during limited periods of time and for shorter distances than drivers for other industries. Recognizing this, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act of 2012 authorized a broad exemption from many federal regulations for vehicles that are classified as covered farm vehicles and granted states broad authority to waive certain Commercial Drivers License (CDL) requirements for farmers and employees of designated farm-related service industries. These exemptions offer the flexibility that is vital to the agriculture industry.

Federally Authorized CDL Waivers

Exemption for Farmers
49 CFR 383.3(d) gives states authority to exempt operators of farm vehicles from the requirements in 49 CFR 383, provided the vehicle is controlled and operated by a farmer or by a farmer’s employee or family member and used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery or farm supplies to or from a farm. This waiver is limited to farm vehicles which are operated within 150 miles of the operator’s farm.

Exemption for Farm-Related Service Industries
49 CFR 383.3(f) gives states authority to waive the required knowledge and skills tests (49 CFR 383.110) and issue restricted CDLs to employees of designated farm-related service industries: agri-chemical businesses; custom harvesters; farm retail outlets and suppliers; and livestock feeders. Restricted CDLs extended to employees of designated farm-related service industries are limited to seasonal periods determined by each state and must not exceed 180 days. While a state may provide for more than one seasonal period, each restricted CDL is valid for only one season and must be revalidated for each successive season. Restricted CDL holders are limited to operating Group B and C vehicles1 and may not operate vehicles carrying any placardable quantities of hazardous materials. An exception to the hazardous materials policy is made for diesel fuel in quantities of 3,785 liters (1,000 gallons) or less; liquid fertilizers (plant nutrients) in vehicles or implements of husbandry in total quantities of 11,355 liters (3,000 gallons) or less; and solid fertilizers (solid plant nutrients) that are not transported with any organic substance. Finally, restricted CDL holders may not operate a commercial motor vehicle beyond 241 kilometers (150 miles) from the place of business or the farm currently being served.

Exemption for Covered Farm Vehicles
49 CFR 383.3(h) exempts drivers of a covered farm vehicle2 with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or less from certain requirements anywhere in the United States. Drivers of covered farm vehicles with a GVWR of more than 26,001 may be exempted from the requirements anywhere in the state of registration or across state lines within 150 air miles of the farm or ranch with respect to which the vehicle is being operated. In both cases, the exempted requirements include:

  • Any requirement relating to commercial drivers licenses in 49 CFR Part 383 or controlled substances and alcohol use and testing in 49 CFR Part 382;
  • Any requirement in 49 CFR Part 391, Subpart E (Physical Qualifications and Examinations);
  • Any requirement in 49 CFR Part 395 (Hours of Service of Drivers); and
  • Any requirement in 49 CFR Part 396 (Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance)

Class A Exemption for Farm-Related Service Industry
49 CFR 383 (i) gives states the authority to waive the requirement for a holder of a Class A CDL to obtain a hazardous materials endorsement for designated farm-related service industries, provided that the driver is operating a service vehicle that is transporting less than 1,000 gallons of diesel and clearly marked with a “flammable” or “combustible” placard.

CDL Waivers in SLC States

Of the 15 states comprising the Southern Legislative Conference, 14 states extend CDL waivers to farmers and/or covered farm vehicles; 10 states extend seasonally restricted CDL waivers to farm-related service industries and two states extend Class A CDL waivers to farm-related service industries. Alabama does not appear to extend any CDL waivers to persons in the agricultural industry.

CDL Waivers for the Agriculture Industry In SLC States
State Farmers / Farm Vehicles Citation Farm-related Service Industries Citation Class A Citation Additional Information
Arkansas Yes 006 05 CARR 035 Yes 006 05 CARR 037 No N/A  
Florida Yes 15A-7016, F.A.C No N/A No N/A  
Georgia Yes O.C.G.A § 40-5-142 Yes O.C.G.A. § 40-5-148.1; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. R. 375-3-11-.17 No N/A  
Kentucky Yes KRS § 281A.050 Yes 601 KAR 11:080 No N/A  
Louisiana Yes La. R.S. § 32:408 Yes La. R.S. § 32:423 No N/A More information on the farm-related service industry CDL waiver, click here.
Mississippi Yes Miss. Code Ann. § 63-1-203 Yes Miss. Code Ann. § 63-1-207 No N/A  
Missouri Yes § 302.775 R.S.Mo. Yes 12 CSR 10-24.412 No N/A  
North Carolina Yes N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-37.16 No N/A No N/A  
Oklahoma Yes 47 Okl. St. § 6-102.1 Yes 47 Okl. St. § 6-111 Yes O.A.C. § 595:11-1-14 FMCSR Part 383 adopted by reference in O.A.C. § 595:11-1-14
South Carolina Yes S.C. Code Regs. 38-383.3 Yes S.C. Code Regs. 38-383.3 No N/A  
Tennessee Yes Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-102 No N/A No N/A  
Texas Yes 37 TAC § 16.3 Yes 37 TAC § 16.6 Yes 37 TAC § 16.1 FMCSR Part 383 adopted by reference in 37 TAC § 16.1
Virginia Yes Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-649.4 Yes Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-341.10:1 No N/A  
West Virginia Yes W. Va. Code § 17E-1-8 No N/A No N/A  


1. Under 49 CFR 383.91 Group B vehicles, or Heavy Straight Vehicles, are defined as any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 11,794 kilograms (26,001 pounds) or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) GVWR. Group C vehicles, or Small Vehicles, include any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that meet neither the definition of Group A nor that of Group B, but that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers or is used in the transportation of hazardous materials.

2. 49 CFR 390.5 defines a covered farm vehicle as a straight truck or articulated vehicle registered in a state as a farm vehicle, operated by the owner or operator of a farm or ranch, or a farmer’s employee or family member and used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery or supplies to or from a farm or ranch, not used as a for-hire motor carrier.