A bill reintroduced in the Senate on May 1 would ease regulations for truckers who haul livestock and insects.
The bill addresses the hours of service rule in the Department of Transportation’s mandate requiring electronic logging devices to track commercial truckers’ time on the road.
That rule limits truckers to 11 hours of drive 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. The rule includes an exemption for agriculture for the first 150 air miles, after which truckers must start tracking their time.
Livestock, fish and bee organizations have argued those limits would jeopardize the wellbeing of animals and insects.
The Senate bill — Transporting Livestock Across America Safely, S. 1255 — would extend the allowable drive time for animal and insect haulers to 15 hours and on-duty time to a maximum of 18 hours. It also would require them to then take a break that that is five hours less than their total on-duty time.
In addition, it exempts loading and unloading from drive-time calculations and allows drivers to take a break without counting toward their on-duty time.
It also increases the agriculture exemption to 300 air miles and allows drivers to complete their trip regardless of how long they’ve been on the road if they are within 150 air miles of their delivery point.
The bill, which was initially introduced in May 2018 but didn’t get a vote, was reintroduced by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., with 18 cosponsors.
With the implementation of the ELD mandate, it became clear the hours of service for livestock haulers were not adequate, Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said.
“It is an animal welfare issue,” he said.
Live cattle simply cannot be left unattended in a trailer while a trucker has to stop at a truck stop for 10 hours for the hours to reset, he said.
NCBA has been working on the issue since the ELD implementation and helped secure a delay for livestock haulers until Sept. 30, but the need for a long-term fix remains, he said.
As for the bill’s chances, “everything right now is up in the air given the priorities in Congress. But we’re going to work it as hard as we possibly can,” he said.
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has also been heavily involved on the issue and expects broad support for the bill.
“There is renewed interest in Congress on infrastructure, particularly surface transportation,” Lia Biondo, USCA director of policy and outreach, said.
“We are confident that in the $2 trillion that leadership has earmarked for this priority, that they will include this particular fix for livestock haulers,” she said.
The ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017 with a compliance exemption for livestock haulers until March 2018. DOT again extended that exemption, and a congressional delay extended it through Sept. 30, 2018.
In October 2018, groups representing livestock, fish and bee producers petitioned DOT to increase drive and on-duty limits and asked for a five-year exemption from the ELD mandate. A government funding bill passed in February extended the exemption to Sept. 30 of this year.