Cattle, pork, fish and bee organizations have petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation for a one-year exemption from compliance with a rule that will require electronic logging devices for truckers to track their time behind the wheel.
The rule is set to go into effect Dec. 18.
In conjunction with the ELD exemption, they are also asking for increased flexibility for livestock haulers in the hours of service rules that restrict how long truckers can stay behind the wheel.
Drivers required to use ELDs would be limited to the hours of service rules, which restrict a driver to no more than 11 active driving hours. Once a driver hits those maximum hour allotments, he must stop and rest for 10 consecutive hours.
The groups contend the livestock-hauling industry is not prepared to use ELDs and the hours of service rules would be problematic when transporting livestock.
They also point out that current ELDs aren’t compatible with the needs of livestock haulers and question whether the devices can accommodate agricultural exemptions to hours of service.
Pulling off the road for 10 hours isn’t an issue when hauling items such as furniture, but animals can’t just be left sitting. It’s an animal-health issue, said Michael Formica, assistant vice president and counsel for domestic policy with the National Pork Producers Council.
In addition, the available ELDs would automatically log miles without regard to exemptions in place for hauling livestock and agricultural commodities in general, arbitrarily triggering a violation. If a driver gets enough violations, he loses his commercial driver license, he said.
“It’s become a big brother situation. It’s frustrating, but we could deal with it as long as the underlying rules we have to follow are compatible” with the unique needs of the livestock industry, he said.
NPPC is asking for the exemption because livestock truckers “have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling regardless of what some bureaucratic rule says,” said Ken Maschoff, NPPC president.
“Unfortunately, confusion and possible misunderstanding over enforcement and how ELDs operate are causing significant concern within the livestock industry over apparent incompatible HOS rules and the realities of livestock handling,” the petition states.
Many drivers are concerned they will be arbitrarily penalized for choosing the proper care of animals because of an arbitrary cut-off in the hours of service rules, the groups said.
“The lack of effective industry outreach and education compounds these concerns. As a result, we are hearing increased reports of drivers choosing to stop hauling livestock altogether to avoid this potential dilemma,” the petition stated.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association contends more time is needed to address the concerns and educate all stakeholders to avoid disruption in an industry that already has concerns with driver shortages.
“A limited exemption from ELDs will allow for our haulers to continue to safely transport livestock while providing the livestock industry time to continue working with DOT to find workable solutions within the HOS rules…,” said Craig Uden, NCBA president.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, North American Meat Institute, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Livestock Marketing Association, National Aquaculture Association and American Beekeeping Association joined in the petition.
The petition also pointed out the lack of awareness of the ELD rule among livestock haulers and the livestock industry and lack of DOT outreach.
The groups also cited a lack of understanding among vendors in the ELD marketplace of the unique needs of the livestock industry and essential design features for their products.
They also noted the older average age of livestock haulers, who are less familiar with using new technology and require more time to train on ELD use.
Formica said he’s optimistic about the outcome. Livestock haulers are a small faction of the trucking industry, and EDLs were designed for that other 99.9 percent. DOT recognizes there’s a problem and has asked the industry for more information, he said.