Are Your Truck Drivers in Compliance?

With farms sharing equipment, expanding their reach and offering services to other farms, it’s critical to know the federal and state regulations applicable to trucking. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations (FMCSR) provide exemptions from some compliance for farm vehicle drivers. However, too often farm businesses make wrong assumptions about their exemption from the rules.

For example, if your driver(s) goes over 150 air miles to haul equipment, if you are being hired by another farm, or you are hauling anhydrous ammonia tanks to the field, you are no longer exempt and must comply with FMCSR regulations including drug testing, driver qualification files and more.

Let’s explore some of the basic rules on farmer exemptions. This is not a full list of FMCSR requirements and we recommend reading through your state commercial motor vehicle compliance laws.


FMCSR requires all farmers to comply with Parts 392 (Driving of Motor Vehicles), 393 (Parts and Accessories), and 396 (Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance). A few key requirements to note:

— No cellphone use while driving unless hands-free. CB radios allowed to be used.

— Annual vehicle inspections for each truck. Sticker on truck or inspection sheet must be with the vehicle.

— Post-trip inspection written report is required at the completion of the each day a vehicle is operated.

— Pre-trip inspections must be completed. Any repairs noted on the prior driver’s post-trip must be signed-off that it has been repaired prior to operating.

— Accident records must be kept three years.

— Identification and marking of USDOT on vehicles.


In order for a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle to be exempt from some of the FMCSR under the Farm Vehicle Driver exemptions, all of the following must be met:

1. The vehicle is controlled and operated by a farmer, their employee or family member;

2. It is being used to transport agricultural products, farm supplies, or farm machinery to or from a farm;

3. It is not being used in a for-hire operation;

4. It is not carrying hazardous materials in an amount that requires placarding; AND

5. It is being used within 150 air miles (173 statute miles) of the farm.

Farm vehicle drivers are exempted from several FMCSR compliances including, but not limited to, drug testing requirements, obtaining copies of medical cards and driver qualification files. Even if your employee meets the farm vehicle driver criteria above, they still have to log their hours if they drive over 100 air miles across another state.

If a driver does not meet the above criteria for a farm vehicle driver, the farm must adhere to the FMCSR including, but not limited to, maintaining driver qualification files, adhering to drug testing policies and more. Let’s explore these driver files and drug testing in more detail.


— Driver application for employment (pre-hire)

— Inquiries into past employment the last three years (pre-hire)

— Motor vehicle records

— Copy of current medical card

— Road test

— Annual violation certificate and review of driving record (must be completed each year)


— Pre-employment drug testing required

— Post-accident potentially required depending on accident

— Random drug testing required

— Reasonable suspicion

If you are required to place your drivers into a random drug testing pool, I have found it relatively inexpensive to join a consortium pool and have an outside company track, administer and ensure your drug testing. If you search online for consortium drug testing or occupational drug testing, you should be able to find a company that provides that service in your area. They would also be able to assist with pre-employment testing as well.

My recommendation is to analyze how and where you utilize your farm drivers. Ask yourself: Are you 100% sure you are in compliance with your federal and state regulations? If not, seek out expert help. Then, review compliance annually to ensure you stay on top of changes. It may save you both headaches and fines down the road.

© Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

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Secret to Hiring Farm Truckers

With the major shortage of drivers, you might be wondering how your farm could possibly find and compete for drivers. The American Trucker Association had predicted a shortage of 48,000 truckers by the end of 2015. It’s been on the rise as the shortage just a few years ago was only 30,000 drivers. With average over-the-road (OTR) wages ranging between $70,000 and $80,000 plus sign-on bonuses, recruiting might seem like a daunting task, but it’s possible. Know what your farm has to offer and learn how to creatively get in front of driver candidates.

Here are three compelling reasons a driver would be interested in working for a farming operation.

1. Local Routes — Typically, farms offer more local routes with significantly less overnight travel than other positions. Drivers of all ages are looking for more work-life balance; they are looking for more time at home with the family and in many cases willing to give up the higher pay to do so.

2. Culture — The name of the game in recruiting for any position is showcasing your company’s culture. Why your farm? Job seekers are looking to work for a place where they are valued and feel part of the team. The average employee turnover rate for the larger trucking companies is an insane 102%! Compare that to the average employee turnover rate amongst all industries at only 15%. The biggest complaint of drivers is they feel like they are just a number. They are on the road by themselves so they have a hard time “connecting” with their employers. Farms typically have strong cultures that fully embrace family-owned values. That is a big attraction point for candidates and they need to know what you offer.

3. Variety — On the farm our truck drivers often assist in other areas besides just driving; that’s an attraction point for many job seekers. Most driving jobs offer zero variety when it comes to their work day. You have an opportunity to offer them variety by season and also the ability to build on learning new skills.

I realize some of you are thinking those are great pitches to tell a candidate, but you have no candidates to share it with. When it comes to finding truck drivers, your approach has to be different than hiring other employees. Here are a few tips that might land you your next hire.


When we work with our clients on hiring truck drivers, social media is a critical tool. Most truck drivers are not on job boards searching for their next opportunity. Paid advertisements on social media help to get not only in front of interested drivers, but also their spouses. The last several driver positions for our clients have been found through our social media approach.


When we were short of drivers on our farm, we started to target retirees. They were not looking to work full-time, but were definitely interested in some extra money and some variety in their week. If you get several retirees to cover one full-time position, you’ll have plenty of coverage. They were pretty good about caring for the equipment and doing their jobs right as they truly wanted to be there. Hiring retirees takes a while to build up your pool. Start talking around your area and put ads at the local diners. After you find one hire, they typically know others.


Sounds kind of old-school recruitment, but one of the vegetable farmers in our area found his last hire by placing a sign in the front lawn of the farm. Again, since drivers are not online as much looking at jobs listings, it might be a way to catch the attention of a local hire.


If you are hiring more than one driver, a radio ad can still be effective. It allows you to target the local audience and again appeals to both your truck drivers and their friends and family that might know they are looking for a change.

Make the application process easy. They’re truck drivers; they don’t typically have a resume ready to go, nor the time or patience to create one. You will get a lot more responses if you simply leave a phone number for them to call or text in their interest. Too often companies make the process too lengthy and lose them all together. You can get the application later; what we are really looking for is to start the conversation.

Showcase your opportunity and use some of these techniques to find the right driver for you!

Lori Culler, AgHires Founder

© Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

It’s Time For a Career Change.

It’s official – you’ve made the decision that you want to make a career change. Doing this can be both exciting and nerve wracking. It is completely normal to feel a bit insecure about a career change. It often involves stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to try new things. Here are some tips to help you with the process.
1. Have a plan. You do not want to rush into a new career without really thinking it through.
2. Don’t limit yourself. Look at jobs that are similar to your current job, but also look at potential jobs that center around your likes and passions.
3. Take advantage of your transferable skills. What skills and experiences do you have? What other potential career fields could you use these skills and experiences in?
4. Don’t get discouraged. Changing your career path can be time consuming and after a while of searching, it can seem hopeless. It takes time to find a career change that is right for you. The wait is worth it.
5. Be prepared to have to expand your knowledge. Some new careers may require you to further your education or to receive further training. Gaining this knowledge and experience will make you more competitive while job hunting.

While the process of making a career change can seem very scary, it can also be very rewarding.

Renee Goforth                                                                                                                             



New Hire Gone Wrong

If employee tenure at your farm resembles a revolving door, try improving your farm’s first impressions. It can make or break a new employee’s bond with your organization.

You’ve been stressing about being short-staffed and you’ve found what you believe to be the right guy for the job only to be quickly disappointed. So what went wrong?  Is this just a classic case of a bad hire? Did you miss something during the interview? Or could it be your new-hire practices or lack thereof? How you manage the first several days and weeks for a new employee is critical to their long-term success.  A strong start results in quicker productivity and reduced chances of turnover later.

Organizations with a structured onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater new hire retention according to Interactive Services, a training solutions provider. When an employee quits relatively quickly after being hired it is typically due to several factors: the job wasn’t what they expected, they don’t feel like they can successfully complete their tasks or they don’t feel they fit into the team/culture.

Here are a few simple, yet highly effective best practices for integrating a new employee to the team:


Take the time before they join the team to prepare for their arrival. Inform the team of the new hire, their role, background and their part in getting the new hire up to speed. Ensure everything is set before their first day. For example get any necessary keys, time cards, work clothes, etc.  This allows for your new hire’s first days to go more smoothly and leaves a solid impression of your organization from the start. For your use and convenience we have created a “New Hire Checklist” that can be tweaked for your operation on the DTN/Progressive Farmer site (  under the Resources tab.


Nothing says we’re excited to have you on board like a stack of new-hire paperwork. Leave any mundane tasks for the end of the first day. Start the morning by walking them around the facilities and introducing them to each team member. Maybe take them to a few fields to show current crop progress if you are in the growing season.

Involve your team in the process. Set up structured time with each team member to allow them to get to know one another.  Have other employees go over their role on the team, how long they have been there, etc. Then outline structured items to discuss. Have one of your employees go over work/safety policies, while another goes over what’s expected in terms of shop organization. This exercise is beneficial on multiple accounts, your new hire gets to learn the lay of the land and your current employees get a friendly reminder of the work policies they review. The more time your new hire has in getting to know your team the more comfortable and effective they will be in their new role.


As their manager, spend time reviewing what’s expected and review a few concrete goals.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, it might be as simple as setting up what you would like to see them learn their first week, first month, etc. Most farms don’t have formal training in place because it’s overwhelming to think of how to develop.  Start with a simple checklist of items to go over with a new hire and then continue to add to it over time.   Eventually, you will have a training list specific to each position on your farm.


Recently I was speaking with Pathway Family Farms in southern Indiana and they said their managers have a mindset that training for a new hire really needs to continue for a full year.  Because of the cyclical nature of farming (even though an employee may have been there for six months) they may have only seen harvest and are still new to planting.  They set up structured “shadowing” time where they will ride along with another operator to observe before they perform a task.

The bottom line is first impressions of your business matter, but newbies need guidance through the farm’s entire first-year cycle. Take the time to assure your new employees bond with your team and your organization and your retention levels should improve.

We are always interested in hearing about practices on your farm. If you have some good tips on how you train new hires and integrate them with your team, please share them with us.

Lori Culler, AgHires Founder

© Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

Ditch Your Annual Performance Review

It may sound radical for someone in the human resource business to admit, but I am a big fan of ditching annual performance reviews. Before we can talk about why that’s a new trend, it might be best to see where reviews originated in the first place and why they are changing now.

Performance reviews have been around for decades and were designed as a tool for managers and employees to review performance and justify their pay. Reviews have morphed constantly over the years in terms of structure, content and approach. Best practices today are to align individual employee goals with the direction of the business. HR departments have become strong at partnering with other execs to say “what matters” and how to match that with employee goals.

Historically, all performance reviews have come with some type of rating or ranking system. Let’s say for example a 5 equals exceeds performance expectations whereas a 3 would equal meets performance expectations. Often your rating would be tied to bonuses and performance increases. I have gone through many performance reviews in my past and have been on both sides of the desk. Early in my career, I remember being distraught getting a 4 in an area instead of a 5. It’s like being an all-A student and finding out you got a B. Horrifying, right?

Wait, so what’s the whole point of the review again? Isn’t a performance review ideally supposed to boost performance? The million-dollar question for all businesses is how to increase performance of human capital. This whole question of whether the annual performance review is actually influencing performance has been on the minds of some very large corporations. GE had been famous for its bell-curved performance review ranking system. Now GE — along with other large companies like Adobe — are moving away from the annual review altogether.

Think about what is really behind employee motivation. We all know from research that it includes things like seeing the impact of their contribution, autonomy in their work, or being part of a work culture they love, so it’s no shocker that employers are moving away from the historical practice. Some of the larger companies are adopting online tools to provide anytime feedback, which means employees can be receiving short, quick communication throughout the year.

So what does this mean for farm business owners? More ongoing touchpoints and coaching is the name of the game today. How can we take some of what the large companies are doing and relate it to the business of farming?


Verbal feedback should be occurring on a daily basis. We’re not talking full sit-down meetings, just one-liners on what you thought of an employee’s performance of a task or project. For example, an employee took an initiative to do something they weren’t asked; instead of saying “thanks,” give a little more detail such as, “Thanks for taking the time to organize the parts shelf. Shop organization is really important, and when you take that initiative, it sets the tone in the shop. Appreciate it.” The best feedback comes with a little detail called the “why” behind it.


I have to admit, we started one in our office after a suggestion from one of our employees, and I am really impressed with it. Since everyone is busy working, sometimes we don’t take the time to celebrate the wins. A brag board on a farm can be an area where both management and employees write down accomplishments. Ideally, you would like to see things like “Planted 100 acres yesterday” or “50 more acres to plant and we are finished.” Managers can give recognition to employees so everyone can see. Who doesn’t like public recognition from the owners?


At our weekly team meetings, each individual shares their focus for the week, any accomplishments and any areas where they are struggling so we can brainstorm as a team to support them. It’s also a platform to discuss any short-term goals. On the farm, you might discuss the overall plan for the week and in-season goals such as how many acres we would like to see planted per day if weather is decent.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what’s worked on your farm. How do you motivate staff, and how have you been giving feedback informally throughout the year versus a formal process?

© Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

Cure for Employer Blues

Unemployment rates are recovering after the nation’s long recession. By February they were at their lowest level in eight years, running at 3% or below in a number of key farm states. That’s exacerbating recruitment and retention problems for farm workers in many rural areas. It’s also one reason DTN has joined forces with a human resource specialist to advise readers on labor solutions.

Starting this month, AgHires CEO Lori Culler will launch a monthly DTN column, “Ag’s HR Coach” available on all DTN products. The founder of an online job board and recruiting company specializing in agriculture, Culler will join our stable of veteran business consultants–CliftonLarsonAllen CPA Andy Biebl, Texas A&M Ag Finance Professor Danny Klinefelter and Ag Progress Family Business Adviser Lance Woodbury. Each one of these authors addresses solutions to the management and family challenges confronting farm businesses. Starting April 14, you will find Culler and other DTN columnists at…. DTN subscribers can find them in their regular Town Hall locations.

Culler is a Midwest farm girl whose family still raises potatoes, tomatoes and grain in Michigan and Indiana. Prior to consulting in the ag industry, she provided human resource and management consulting to Fortune 500 companies in manufacturing, utility and health care industries. After recruiting and implementing HR strategies for her family’s farm during a high-growth spurt, she was inspired to help fellow farmers find and hire talent. AgHires popular job board for farms and agribusinesses can be accessed at DTN’s public website,….


Labor shortages remain a serious problem on many farms. DTN’s own online March 360 Poll of 427 readers found about 60% of respondents report moderate to severe problems in hiring qualified farm workers. That’s not so different than what rural agribusinesses like farm equipment dealers and cooperatives report, Culler says. Not only does it reflect the tight labor pool, but science and technology advances at the farm gate that require employees to exercise both brains and brawn.

Ag employers need new strategies to recruit under those circumstances, Culler says. “The old methods of word-of-mouth advertising and walk-ins just aren’t effective anymore,” says Culler, whose AgHires site has a following of 40,000 on Facebook. “The landscape of where to find people has also changed.”

Today, Culler encourages employers to be continuous recruiters, rather than just focusing on when the time is right.

“Where are the job seekers? On electronic job boards, on social media,” she says. “They’re not excited about working for you if they can’t find the company’s website or Facebook page.

“I recently helped two farms a few miles apart recruit from the same labor pool, the same area and the same type job. The one with a website attracted 18 applicants, the other without a site only four.”

If you’re not Facebook literate, ask someone in the family to construct a Facebook page and post pictures of your farm on a regular basis, she says. Build your image and reputation in the community. Contact your friends and business acquaintances to give you “likes.” Often would-be job seekers will be searching for businesses where they’d like to work in the future; if they know about you, they’ll be recruits when they’re ready.

Don’t underestimate the appeal of working for a progressive farm operation. There’s a trend right now to go back to small or medium-sized businesses, Culler says. “We’re seeing layoffs in big ag-related companies due to mergers and downsizing from the farm recession. Employees with experience in agronomy and technology may be more available now.

“The ‘brag point’ for farms is that they have something to offer that big business doesn’t,” Culler adds. “Longevity, family values, autonomy in work.” With the right message and networking, talent can come your way.

Follow Marcia Taylor on Twitter @MarciaZTaylor

Social Media & Recruiting

Social media is growing tremendously without any signs of slowing down anytime soon. It has become a part of our everyday lives and is a powerful tool for hiring managers and job seekers. 92% of companies use social media in some way when hiring. Whether it’s looking at candidate pages/accounts or promoting their openings. 42% of companies say that the quality of candidates has improved because of social media and 73% have hired candidates successfully through social media.

With so many companies using social media during the hiring process, candidates need to be careful about what they post on their accounts. Three out of four hiring managers and recruiters check candidates’ social media profiles and one out of three reject candidates based on something they see on the profiles.

14.4 million people in the U.S. have used social media to search for a job. 29% of jobseekers use social media as one of their primary tools while job hunting. Social media has become a major tool for both companies and jobseekers to use during the hiring process. Are you using social media?  Follow us! (links below)

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We Recognize National Ag Day on March 15th, 2016

Many people do not realize the impact that agriculture has in our daily lives. Almost everything we eat, use, and wear is provided by agriculture, yet much of the population is unaware of this. This is why National Ag Day was established.

The goal of National Ag Day is to bring awareness to the contribution of agriculture. It is a day to recognize and celebrate what agriculture provides. It strives to show the importance of agriculture, the importance of ag literacy, and the broad range of career opportunities that are available.

Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people and as the world population continues to grow, there is an even greater demand for agriculture. There are over 200 types of career opportunities within the field of agriculture. These jobs can range from farm production to food science to education. The agriculture industry is continuing to grow and the demand for its’ services are increasing. This is one of the many reasons that National Ag Day is so important and why it is so important to celebrate farming and agriculture.

AgHires ( is proud to recognize, celebrate, and sponsor National Ag Day. Join us on March 15, 2016 to show your appreciation to all those in the agriculture industry. For more information, visit

Benefit of Having a LinkedIn Profile

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider creating a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a social networking site geared toward professionals and is a tool used by a lot of businesses. Having a LinkedIn profile helps you promote yourself, your qualifications, and establish connections.

When employers receive an application or resume, they will often look the applicant up online. A LinkedIn profile is one of the first things that will pop up if you’ve created a profile.  A well-done profile increases your chances of being found by employers and recruiters. Unlike a resume, you can use “I” when you are talking about yourself, therefore making it more personal. You can include all past jobs, schooling, and any other experiences without worrying about being too lengthy.

LinkedIn is also great for establishing connections. Making connections helps grow your network. Having a large network on LinkedIn makes it possible for you to get recommendations and endorsements which show potential employers what others think about you professionally.

Overall, LinkedIn is a great free tool to use whether you are job hunting or not. Even if you’re not actively searching for a job, companies may come across your profile and reach out if they have an interest in your background. If you are job hunting, having a strong LinkedIn profile is a major bonus and puts you one step ahead of your competition!

To search jobs in agriculture, go to