Many people thought the Ag exception could only be used when transporting goods, but it now clearly covers both legs of a round trip within the 150 air-mile radius, “regardless of whether the CMV is loaded or empty”. The sole purpose of the trip must be to load or unload an agricultural commodity, and no other non-agricultural cargo can be transported.
The FMCSA stated that not covering the unloaded return trip would “limit the relief” intended by Congress, and would make monitoring more complicated for law enforcement officials.
Another point of confusion was trips with destinations outside the 150 air-mile radius. The FMCSA stated that the exception applies to both legs of the portion of the trip within that radius, “regardless of the distance to the final destination.”
HOS regulations begin to apply when the driver travels beyond the covered radius, and the driver will need to keep HOS logs with an ELD until they cross back into the 150 air-mile radius on the return trip.
The logical source of agricultural commodities might be the field where the crops are grown or where livestock is raised, but that definition caused problems for drivers loading from grain elevators and livestock markets. Many in the industry asked that those types of storage locations be included as legitimate sources from which to measure the all-important 150 air-miles.
The FMCSA agreed that an agricultural commodity can have more than one source, but only if the commodity is still in its original form or hasn't been processed so much that it no longer meets the definition of an agricultural commodity. The agency noted that there would likely be more changes to this question in the future.
Commodities can have multiple sources, and so can a full trailer. Many commenters asked that multiple pickups be allowed in a single trip, and that the 150 air-mile radius be measured from the last pickup source.
The FMCSA agreed that pickups from multiple sources were essential to carriers, but disagreed on the radius calculation. The CVSA weighed in as well on the issue, and the new guidance states that the 150 air-mile radius must be measured from the first source only.
You can find more information and the full Regulatory Guidance on the FMCSA's website.