The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted agricultural haulers another 90-day delay from a national mandate requiring electronic logging devices to track their time on the road.
The waiver comes as a relief to animal agriculture groups as they continue to work with DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the complexities of limitations on drivers transporting live animals.
Those groups contend the livestock hauling industry is not prepared and needs more training on ELD technology and clarification of the rules applying to livestock haulers’ time behind the wheel. They also question whether local law enforcement is aware of agricultural exemptions.
The FMCSA said it would take additional steps to address the unique needs of agricultural industries and provide further guidance to assist in the effective implementation of the ELD rule without impeding commerce or safety.
The agency hopes to do additional outreach on the devices to agriculture and specifically livestock haulers, Allison Cooke, executive director of government affairs for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a podcast on Tuesday.
The agency also hopes to be able to provide guidance on the 150 air-mile exemption for agricultural haulers as well as other information that will be helpful as the industry moves down the path on ELD and hours of service requirements, she said.
“Through this whole conversation on ELD, we know that the larger issue at hand is hours of service,” she said.
The hours of service rule limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in a 24-hour period. Once they reach that limit, they have to pull off the road for 10 hours before driving again.
That “just really doesn’t work for the livestock hauling community. We have an animal welfare piece that we have to be concerned about at all times,” she said.
Weather plays a big factor, and livestock haulers have to be worried about how that can negatively affect animals, she said.
In asking DOT for the waiver, National Pork Producers Council argued that because livestock is vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures, long-established industry standards preclude drivers from stopping while hauling animals. And that could run them afoul of the ELD and hours of service rules.
“Drivers hauling livestock have a moral obligation to care for animals they’re hauling regardless of any regulations,” Jim Heimerl, NPPC president, said in a press release on Tuesday.
The waiver will give DOT and Congress additional time to find a solution that meets the unique needs of livestock haulers, he said.
Cooke said NCBA is working with legislators on language to fix the hours of service rule so it works for livestock haulers.
The ELD mandate — which requires commercial truckers to replace paper logs with ELDs that report data to federal and state inspectors — went into effect Dec. 18. Agricultural haulers were granted an initial 90-day delay but were facing a March 18 compliance deadline. The extension of that delay announced on Tuesday pushes the new deadline to mid-June.