UPDATE: No requirement for farmers and ranchers to get a CDL - KXXV Central Texas News Now


UPDATE: No requirement for farmers and ranchers to get a CDL

By Eric Boynton

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided not to consider a proposal that would require farmers and ranchers to get a commercial driver's license (CDL).


by Mark Wiggins

WACO - For many in rural Central Texas, it's one of their most enduring memories of childhood:  Their first time behind the wheel of the family tractor.

The time-honored initiation into working the family farm could one day be a thing of the past, with discussions underway in Washington to require operators of farm equipment to have a commercial driver's license, or CDL.

Ned Meister's work in agriculture began similarly at the age of ten.  Meeting with News Channel 25 Wednesday at the Texas Farm Bureau, Meister explained the critical role of family on the farm.

"The vast majority of our farms are family farms, operators of equipment are usually family members, and if [those changes] were to take place, that would eliminate some of the family participation in the farm operation."

On his farm just outside the town of McGregor, Rodney Schmalriede grew up helping his father.  His son has grown up the same way, and with farmers facing tougher times than ever, Schmalriede is glad for the help.

"Right now I've got my young son, he's 11 years old -- can drive that tractor like a pro -- and my dad who will be 80 this year," explains Schmalriede, "And I've got to have their help."

Concerned with the amount of farm equipment making short hops between fields and down public roadways, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering whether or not to classify agricultural machines like tractors as "commercial vehicles," requiring a CDL to operate. 

The requirements would subject farmers to the same rules governing truck drivers, requiring them to keep logs and limit their hours.

Farmers also fear the prospect of replacing family help with expensive professional drivers, something that could end up costing everyone -- if it doesn't break the bank. 

"When you consider salaries and benefits and all the other things that go with hiring people that otherwise would have been doing by your family, well it's just a more expensive proposal," says Meister.

As public hearings on the issue are expected to continue, many like Schmalriede see it as more evidence of a meddling government interfering with the lives of rural America.

"I think they're idiots," says Schmalriede.  "All we see in the news all the time is some idiot decision that they've made again.  I think half the problem that this country's in right now is because of all the regulations they're trying to put on everything."

Many others shake their heads at what they see as a bureaucracy that seems out of touch.

"We have lost our understanding of rural life and agriculture," explains Meister.  "I'm not saying that anything's malicious at all, but they just don't understand."

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