Custom harvesters are making their way to the Southern Plains, preparing for a busy winter wheat harvest. Once again, these harvesters are facing a unique regulatory burden. Without a Hazardous Material endorsement on a Class A Commercial Drivers License, operators can only haul 119 gallons of fuel.

The U.S. Custom Harvesters Association is seeking a legislative fix to this regulatory burden. USCHI Vice President Kent Braathen, who is based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, says and these rules and regulations extend beyond the custom harvesting business.

“With today’s farms, we’ve got tractors out there with 300-gallon fuel tanks and during spring work, especially, you have three or four of those running every day,” said Braathen, “They need to get fuel to the field, too; if they’re hauling 1,000 gallons from the farm, they need a Haz Mat endorsement for the tanks that they’re hauling also.”

The fuel tank issue is just one example of regulatory overreach. As a seasonal business, USCHI President Tracy Zeorian says custom harvesters face a shortage of available employees. Labor Department rules have made that challenge more difficult. This over-regulation is described as frustrating.

“When the harvesters get frustrated enough with the rules and regulations, because of the employees (and) because of the larger fuel tanks, it’s going to drive a lot of people to the point where they just aren’t going to mess with it anymore; it’ll just be easier to quit,” said Zeorian, “That will put the farmer and producer into a whole different issue, because they’ll have to figure out what to do to replace the ones that aren’t out there anymore.”

USCHI is encouraging Congress to address the myriad of regulatory issues facing custom harvesters. The fuel tank rule, allowing operators to haul only a maximum of 119 gallons of fuel without special CDL endorsements, has been in place too long. With another harvest season ahead, USCHI is seeking action on this legislative priority.