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February 08, 2007   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
February 08, 2007

Alabama Public Service Commission (APSC) President Jim Sullivan, center, along with Commissioners Susan Parker, left, and Jan Cook, right, review an open letter to Alabama farmers they signed during the APSC meeting Tuesday in Montgomery. In the letter, the commissioners said their agency would not enforce federal motor carrier safety regulations against farms operating their own trucks and trailers for intrastate commerce.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) members signed an open letter to Alabama farmers Tuesday telling them they are exempt from regulations the Alabama Department of Public Safety is seeking to enforce.

PSC President Jim Sullivan along with Associate Commissioners Jan Cook and Susan D. Parker voted unanimously to sign the letter.

The letter said, "While the PSC is extremely concerned about highway safety and has seven enforcement officers who diligently ensure that for-hire truckers operating in Alabama are in compliance with all applicable safety regulations, it is not our intention for those Alabama PSC enforcement officers to enforce those regulations on any motor vehicles controlled and operated by any farmer, so long as such vehicles are used to transport agricultural commodities and supplies on a not-for-hire basis."

Commissioners said the Alabama Legislature long ago recognized vehicles operated by farmers did not create the economic and safety concerns of other commercial trucking operations.

They also stated there are numerous statutory exemptions for vehicles controlled and operated by farmers in the Alabama code sections that establish the jurisdictional authority of the PSC. "We believe that same logic is still applicable today with regard to farmers and the vehicles they operate," commissioners wrote in their letter, adding that placing farmers under federal DOT regulations would create more of a burden than a benefit.

"In our informed opinion, the largely intermittent use of farm vehicles has not created a safety concern that would justify the enforcement of such cumbersome and stringent standards on farm vehicles," the commissioners said.

Last year, the Alabama Department of Public Safety announced intentions to begin enforcing federal DOT regulations on July 1, 2006.

Gov. Bob Riley delayed its enforcement until January of this year and extended the deadline again until April 1.

A task force appointed by Riley to discuss DOT implementation has met twice, once in June and again in September. Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore serves on the task force along with other agricultural representatives, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and other organizations affected by the DOT intrastate number system. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks also serves on the task force.

"On behalf of all the farmers in the state, we are pleased with the decision the commissioners made regarding DOT enforcement," Kilgore said. "Their interpretation of the law is the same as our position has been all along. This decision is in line with the recommendation task force members made to the governor's office and the Department of Public Safety. We hope to have a decision from the governor's office soon on this issue."

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