Courtesy of Tim O’Byrne/Working Ranch magazine
The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving livestock haulers more time to get up to speed on new regulations requiring commercial truck drivers to use electronic logging devices and correlating restrictions on drive time.
The agency has granted livestock haulers a 90-day waiver from the requirements that go into effect on Dec. 18.
Cattle, pork, fish and bee organizations in September petitioned the agency for a one-year exemption from compliance to the new regulations.
They also asked for increased flexibility in the hours of service rules that restrict how long truckers can stay behind the wheel, citing the potential negative effects on animal well-being.
Cattle and beef organizations were quick to register their approval of the waiver, but say they will continue to push their petition.
“This is definitely a little Thanksgiving present,” Allison Cooke, executive director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a podcast on Tuesday.
“We’re excited because this gives us time to continue our conversations with DOT about our long-term needs, but it also gives DOT a chance to take their time on our livestock hauler petition,” she said.
The comment period on the petition closes at the end of November, and the waiver will give the agency more time to go through the comments and make a positive decision for livestock haulers, she said.
Drivers required to use electronic logging devices would be limited to the hours of service rules, which restrict drivers to no more than 11 hours of active driving. Once a driver hits those maximum hours, he must stop and rest for 10 hours.
Industry groups contend those restriction are incompatible with transporting livestock and have questioned whether the ELD devices can accommodate agricultural exemptions.
“The ELDs regulation poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care,” Ken Maschhoff, president of the National Pork Producers Council, stated in a press release.
“Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling,” he said.
The waiver will give DOT time to consider NPPC’s request that livestock haulers be exempted from the ELD mandate, he said.
Both organizations have maintained there is a lot of confusion about the agricultural exemption on hours of service, known as the 150 air-mile rule, and a lack of outreach from DOT to the agricultural community on the new regulations.
They contend the livestock hauling industry is not prepared and needs more training on ELD technology and education on the rules. They also question whether local law enforcement is aware of the agricultural exemption.
Lack of clarity on the rule is one of the reasons for the waiver, and DOT told industry it wants time to take comments on the exemption and how it will work best for livestock haulers, Cooke said.
“We want to make sure that not only our local law enforcement know about this exemption but that our haulers are using it correctly, and we need formal guidance from DOT,” she said.
NCBA will continue to push the petition, and DOT could grant the requested exemption for livestock haulers for up to five years. It will also continue its conversation with DOT on the long-term needs on hours of service, she said.
It is also going to continue to push appropriations language for a one-year delay and is working on letters to that effect from House and Senate leadership to members of the appropriations committees, she said.