Farmer Safety

Exemptions for Covered Farm Vehicles in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations


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.

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.


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.

  • 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.
  • Vehicle owners that do not have a special farm plate or "F" sticker can complete a "Designation as Iowa Covered Farm Vehicle" form online or at any Iowa county treasurer's office. There is no fee required. 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 available.

Driver's license requirements for operators of truck-tractor/semitrailer combinations

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. A class C operator’s license is sufficient for operation of a covered farm vehicle, including a truck-tractor/semitrailer combination, within the scope of the covered farm vehicle exemptions.

Interstate travel advisory

If you have questions about entering neighboring states, please contact their office for any local laws specific to your situation.

  • Kansas: Transportation Division
  • Nebraska: Nebraska State Patrol, Carrier Enforcement Division
  • Minnesota: Minnesota State Patrol
    6651-405-6171, option 3
  • Wisconsin: Motor Carrier Enforcement
  • South Dakota: Motor Carrier Headquarters
  • Illinois: State Patrol Commercial Vehicles Section
  • Missouri: Missouri State Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement





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