Moving Grain: Trucking Hours of Service Exemption in Heavy Drought Areas

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

    South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota Temporarily Suspend HOS Regulations

    Three State governors recently temporarily suspended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. On July 28, the Governor of Minnesota signed an executive order (EO) waiving HOS regulations, through August 27, to allow drivers of commercial motor vehicles more time to transport feed to farmers.

    Because of severe drought conditions in 14 Minnesota counties, State livestock producers face a scarcity of hay and other forage. Likewise, the Governor of South Dakota signed an EO, effective July 17-August 16, exempting delivery of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethanol from HOS regulations. This action was taken to meet the agriculture and tourism industries’ fuel supply needs during a busy time.

    Finally, on July 29, the Governor of Iowa signed an emergency declaration, effective through August 28, suspending HOS regulations for crews and drivers delivering motor fuels, including gasoline, diesel No. 1 and No. 2, ethanol, and biodiesel.

    Also suspended in Iowa through August 28 are fees and permits for oversize and overweight vehicles transporting motor fuels, not exceeding 90,000 pounds. The Iowa declaration was in response to fuel supply complications, including high demand, long wait times at product terminals, as well as a shortage of drivers throughout Iowa.

    I-40 Reopens for All Traffic After Nearly 3-Month Closure

    Since August 2, the Interstate 40 (I-40) bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee has reopened all lanes of traffic—east and westbound. The bridge had been closed since May 11 after a crack was discovered in the span. According to an Arkansas transportation official, the bridge’s repairs, design, and inspection after the closure have cost an estimated $9.5 million, which will be split between Arkansas and Tennessee.

    Agricultural shippers rely on the I-40 bridge to move commodities across the Mississippi River. Of the 50,000 vehicles that typically cross the bridge daily, about one-quarter are commercial trucks.

    Mississippi Gulf Grain Inspections Rebound, but Total Inspections Remain Unchanged

    For the week ending July 29, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions totaled 1.96 million metric tons (mmt). Total grain inspections were unchanged from the previous week, up 6 percent from last year, and down 9 percent from the 3-year average.

    Grain News on AgFax

    From the previous week, corn inspections increased 17 percent, while inspections of wheat and soybeans each decreased 25 percent, reflecting declines in shipments of soybeans to Mexico and wheat to Asia. Although overall inspections remained unchanged from the previous week, Mississippi Gulf grain inspections jumped 42 percent, led by higher wheat and corn inspections. Mississippi Gulf grain shipments increased to Asia and to Latin America.

    Inspections of grain in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) decreased 11 percent from the previous week.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending July 22, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 15.7 mmt. This was 9 percent lower than last week and 16 percent lower than the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales were −0.115 mmt, up 30 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were −0.079 mmt, significantly down from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.515 mmt, up 9 percent from last week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,763 grain carloads during the week ending July 24. This was a 1-percent decrease from the previous week, 2 percent more than last year, and 6 percent lower than the 3-year average.

    Average August shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $57 above tariff for the week ending July 29. This was $174 more than last week and $499 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending July 31, barged grain movements totaled 651,006 tons. This was 27 percent higher than the previous week and 22 percent less than the same period last year.

    For the week ending July 31, 457 grain barges moved down river—135 more barges than the previous week. There were 650 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 7 percent fewer than the previous week.


    For the week ending July 29, 36 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—44 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting July 30), 52 vessels were expected to be loaded—49 percent more than the same period last year.

    As of July 29, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $81.00. This was unchanged from the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $43.00 per mt, 2 percent less than the previous week.


    For the week ending August 2, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 2.5 cents from the previous week to $3.367 per gallon, 94.3 cents above the same week last year. Apart from the previous week (which showed a .2-cent decline), national diesel prices have risen every week for the last 15 weeks.

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