Iowa DOT takes actions to implement agricultural-related provisions of new highway act

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law a two-year federal-aid highway reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for the Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, Pub. L. No. 112-141). This Act, which became effective Oct. 1, 2012, includes provisions that exempt commercial motor vehicles operating as “covered farm vehicles” from certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
Previously, federal law only exempted farmers and farm helpers from the requirement to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) while operating within a 150 air-mile radius of the home farm. The MAP-21 exemptions broaden this exemption by expanding the geographic area in which covered farm vehicles may be operated and parts of the FMCSRs that covered farm vehicles and their operators are exempted from. The exemptions are described below.

Although states have up to three years to amend their safety regulations to conform to revised FMCSRs that will be implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) under MAP-21, the Iowa Department of Transportation, as requested by the FMCSA, is taking immediate actions to implement the covered farm vehicle exemptions in that Act to provide regulatory relief to the state’s agricultural industry.

Iowa DOT takes action to implement agricultural provisions within the new highway act.

(1)  Preliminary adoption of the MAP-21 FMCSRs exemptions

(2)  Publication of this notice offering initial guidance to motor carriers, farm and ranch operators and their employees, and law enforcement officials

(3) Release and distribution of a covered farm vehicle designation form to be completed and carried by eligible vehicle owners  

What is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)?
For purposes relevant to farm operations, a CMV is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway to transport goods that meets the following criteria.

  • In interstate (between states) commerce, a CMV is a single vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of more than 10,000 pounds; or a combination vehicle that has a combined weight rating (CWR) or gross combined weight  (GCW) of more than 10,000 pounds.
  • In intrastate (only within Iowa) commerce, a CMV is single vehicle that has a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds; or a combination vehicle that has a CWR or GCW of more than 26,000 pounds; or a combination vehicle with a power unit that has a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds, regardless of the weight rating or gross weight of the trailer weight.

A CMV is also a vehicle of any size, whether operated interstate or intrastate, that transports hazardous materials in an amount that requires placarding.

Which CMVs are considered covered farm vehicles?
The federal law defines covered farm vehicles as vehicles that:

  • Are operated by a farm/ranch owner or operator, or an employee or a family member of the farmer or rancher.
  • Transport agricultural commodities, livestock or machinery or supplies to and from a farm or ranch.
  • Are NOT operated for-hire.
  • Are NOT transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring placarding.

Where can covered farm vehicles be operated?
Where a vehicle can be operated and remain within the definition of a covered farm vehicle (and therefore within the exemptions) depends upon the weight of the vehicle. (Weight means a single vehicle’s GVWR or GVW; or a combination vehicle’s CVW or GCW, whichever is greater). A vehicle that weighs:

  • 26,000 pounds or less can be operated anywhere in Iowa and in any other state under the exemptions.
  • More than 26,000 pounds can be operated anywhere in Iowa and across state lines, when operated within 150 air miles of the farm/ranch’s operation.

Although the MAP-21 exemptions allow travel in other states, be careful before entering another state under the exemptions. During this initial period, other states may not adopt and implement the exemptions in the same way. Please see “Interstate travel advisory” below.  

Do covered farm vehicles have to be identified in a special way?
Yes. To be considered a covered farm vehicle, MAP-21 requires that the vehicle be equipped with a special license plate or other designation by the state of registration that will allow law enforcement personnel to identify the vehicle as a covered farm vehicle. Pending release of the final FMCSA rules, Iowa farm operators have two options for identifying their vehicles as covered farm vehicles.

(1) Vehicles registered as a special farm truck and display either a special farm plate or the “F” sticker on the vehicle plate will be recognized as meeting the MAP-21 marking requirements.

(2) Vehicle owners that do not have a special farm plate or “F” sticker can complete Form 441088, Designation as Iowa Covered Farm Vehicle. There is no fee required. The form can be obtained online at or any Iowa county treasurer’s office. The completed form must be carried in the power unit of the covered farm vehicle during all operation under the exemptions and must be available for inspection by law enforcement personnel.

These options have been approved by the FMCSA and have been communicated to all states bordering Iowa.

What are the exemptions?
Under MAP-21, drivers may utilize the following exemptions when operating a CMV within the scope of the covered farm vehicle exemptions.

  • No CDL is required (exemption from 49 CFR § 383).
  • No enrollment and testing in a company-based controlled substance and alcohol testing program are required (exemption from 49 CFR § 382).
  • No physical examination and Medical Examiner’s Certificate are needed (exemption from 49 CFR § 391, subpart E).
  • Hours of service regulations do not apply (exemption from 49 CFR § 395).

Covered farm vehicles and their operators are not subject to the inspection, repair and maintenance provisions of 49 CFR § 396, but must comply with other FMCSA safety regulations, including the general provisions of 49 CFR § 390, remaining driver qualification provisions of 49 CFR § 391, driving provisions of 49 CFR § 392, and provisions regarding parts and accessories necessary for safe operation under 49 CFR § 393.

Covered farm vehicles remain subject to inspection by motor vehicle enforcement officers and other law enforcement personnel under these regulations and under state motor vehicle laws.

Size and weight regulations
All vehicle weight, width, height and length regulations, not otherwise temporarily exempted by a valid Iowa emergency proclamation, remain in effect. All vehicles, including farm vehicles, must abide by posted weight and load limits on roads and bridges in Iowa.

Interstate travel authority, registration, fuel tax, and vehicle marking requirements
The MAP-21 exemptions do not waive or affect the travel authority, registration, fuel tax or vehicle marking (USDOT number) requirements for CMVs that are operated interstate. For information regarding these requirements, please see the 2012 Iowa Truck Information Guide at pages 30 (International Registration Plan), 38 (Fuel taxes and permits), 40 (Unified Carrier Registration System), and 46 (Interstate vehicle markings). An electronic copy of the guide is located at

Driver’s license requirements for operators of truck-tractor/semitrailer combinations
Although the operator of a covered farm vehicle is not required to hold a CDL to operate a vehicle within the scope of the covered farm vehicle exemptions, an Iowa operator is still required to have a Class D chauffeur’s license with a number one endorsement if the covered farm vehicle is a truck-tractor/semitrailer combination. This is a state law requirement that is not affected by MAP-21. 

Interstate travel advisory
The provisions of MAP-21 are not being adopted uniformly or at the same time by the states. Therefore, if you plan to travel in other states using the covered farm vehicle exemptions, be sure that you know what regulations apply in those other states. Presently, Missouri and Minnesota are the only border states that have agreed to immediately honor the covered farm vehicle exemptions for Iowa’s farm operators traveling in their states. (Kansas, Wyoming and Colorado have also indicated that they will honor the covered farm vehicle exemptions for Iowa farm operators.) Existing reciprocity agreements with Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin remain in effect. The Iowa DOT will update this information as additional states determine and formalize their implementation of MAP-21.

Future action(s)
The FMCSA will issue a final rule implementing the MAP-21 covered farm vehicle exemptions in the next few months. Pending release of these rules, the Iowa DOT intends to follow up on these actions by seeking necessary amendments to state laws and regulations to ensure uniform and effective enforcement of federal safety rules, regulations and standards. The Iowa DOT also intends to continue to consult with the agricultural industry on development of a more permanent solution to vehicle identification.  

Please contact the Iowa DOT’s commercial vehicle information hotline at 800-925-6469, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.; or visit the Commercial Motor Vehicle Education and Technical Assistance Program website