On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, ADOT pulled over and inspected a number of trucks and trailers near the intersection of SR 82 and SR 83, including a truck and trailer from Dos Cabezas Winery in Sonoita that was headed to Kansas Settlement. The truck was to pick up wine grapes and bring them to their winery for processing in Sonoita. Over 12 citations were documented.  The trailer cannot be used until all corrections are made, and the winery has had to use a smaller trailer with half the capacity requiring more trips, fuel costs, and more time to haul the fruit and get it processed. They were told if ADOT pulled them over and found out corrections were not accomplished, they could be fined $5,000 or more.

ADOT Officer A. Arnold stated, “On September 6, 2023, at 0930 I coached Officer C. Ramirez to conduct a LI CVSA (Level 1) inspection on a commercial hot shot truck and trailer who had improper power unit markings. The driver was placed on out-of-service for no valid Commercial Drivers License and the trailer was placed on Out-of-Service for an improperly attached break away cable.”

The PRT conducted a records request from ADOT who provided the documents and stated, “ADOT DPS and local authorities conduct mobile enforcement efforts around the state to ensure compliance with laws related to commercial vehicles. There was mobile enforcement effort in that area on September 6.”

Although no fines were issued, they were advised that their insurance would likely rise. 

The PRT reached out to the Farm Bureau, which publishes a 25-page manual called “Arizona Farm Bureau Agriculture Transportation Handbook,” which explains State and Federal laws, rules, and exemptions for transporting agricultural goods on highways.

Discussions with Farm Bureau and a review of the handbook indicate that the ADOT inspection was neither required nor authorized because of ADOT-approved exceptions for farmers and ranchers. The officers on site either ignored or were not aware of them. 

A few simple steps explain the exceptions.

Step 1.  Do your vehicles meet the definition of a Covered Farm Vehicle (CFV)? Farmers and ranchers that use trucks and trailers (a) for commercial farming or commercial stock raising, (b) vehicles are controlled and operated by the farmer or rancher, their family members, or employees, (c) vehicles are used to transport agricultural products, machinery, or supplies to or from a commercial farming or stock raising operation, (d) vehicles are not used as contract carriers, and (e) vehicles are not transporting hazardous materials.

Step 2. Determine your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This information can normally be found on the vehicle or registration.  For example, if your truck has a GVWR of 9200 pounds, and your trailer has a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, then the GVWR of the truck and trailer together is 19,200 pounds.

Step 3. Determine if your combined vehicles qualify for the Covered Farm Vehicle Exemption.  If your combine GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds, you may operate your truck/trailer anywhere in the United States under the exemption.  If your truck/trailer GVWR is greater than 26,001 pounds, then the exception will also apply, provided the driver operates only within the state of Arizona, and within a 150 air-mile radius of the farm/ranch. If all the above apply, your vehicles are Covered Farm Vehicles.

What does the Covered Farm Vehicle (CFV) Exemption mean? If you meet the above criteria CFV and their drivers are relieved from compliance of certain regulations to include (a) the requirement for a Commercial Driver’s License, (b) Physical Qualification and Examinations, (c) Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing, (d) Hours of Service, and some (e) Inspection, Repair and Maintenance requirements.

When applying this criteria to the incident described above, the driver and the vehicles meet the Covered Farm Vehicle Exemption. The GVWR was determined to be 43,425; however, since they were traveling within the 150-mile radius, they are still exempt by ADOT regulation.  The only valid citation of the 12 listed was a change ADOT made in late November 2021 stating that if the GVWR exceeds the 26,001 pounds and are traveling within the state, they are now required to have a USDOT number, which is free of charge.

What is a Farm Vehicle License Plate? If you meet the requirements for a Covered Farm Vehicle, you can qualify for a Farm Vehicle Plate. A Farm Plate is not required to meet the exemptions above, but the plate will signify that the vehicle meets the requirements of a farm vehicle and therefore qualifies for a reduced vehicle weight and registration fees. The initial farm plate will cost $24 and annual renewal fees are $8. and in some cases, ADOT can adjust the amount down based on seasonal agricultural work, and reduced annual mileage.