WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Deputy Administrator Deck to advocate for a change to an Interim Final Rule that would make it easier for lobsters to be transported to market.
The Interim Final Rule “Hours of Service of Drivers: Definition of Agricultural Commodity” (FMCSA-2018-0348) seeks to clarify the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of Hours of Service rules, which set maximum hours and other safety standards for commercial truck drivers. Drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, from the source of the commodities to a location within 150 air miles of the source during harvest and planting seasons are exempt from Hours of Service requirements. The 2018 Farm Bill amended the statutory definition of “livestock” referenced in the Hours of Service regulations to include alpacas, llamas, live fish, and crawfish, but did not explicitly include lobster.
“Lobster is a critical component of Maine’s economy, representing about three-quarters of the total value of commercial landings in the state in a typical year,” said the delegation in their letter. “With exports to foreign markets falling precipitously over the last several years due to retaliatory tariffs and the impact of COVID-19 on Maine’s tourism and hospitality industries, it has become increasingly important that Maine lobster can reach key domestic markets, such as nearby Boston, in a timely manner.”
The delegation continued: “We ask that the proposed definition be amended to include ‘…all other living animals cultivated, grown, raised, caught, or harvested for commercial purposes, including aquatic animals.’ This clarifying language will ensure that lobster and other shellfish from Maine can be included under limited, longstanding agricultural exemptions to the Hours of Service rules.”
With this change, truck drivers would be able to drive live lobster shipments from Down East to other key domestic markets like Boston and New York without having to make long stops on the way. This initiative is supported by the Maine Lobstering Union and the Maine Motor Transport Association.
This press release is available online here.