Recent amendments governing the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock, aquaculture and insects, have elicited concerns from cattle, hog, sheep, horse, bee and aquaculture producers, since the time restrictions on transport without rest for the truck drivers would literally stop livestock haulers in their tracks, creating hazards for their live cargo.
These concerns were described on the webpage of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:
The ELD enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) regulations pose significant consequences for the livestock industry. Current federal law limits on-duty time to 14 hours, with a maximum drive time of 11 consecutive hours. The driver must then rest for 10 consecutive hours before returning to duty. For the great majority of the trips made by our livestock haulers, this is simply not enough drive time to accommodate the realities of hauling live animals across the country. Research also demonstrates that repeated loading and unloading of animals creates stress, harming the livestock as well as endangering the hauler. Unfortunately, the impending December 18, 2017 electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) rules may force small business owners out of the marketplace while also having the unintended impact of decreasing driver safety, and jeopardizing the wellbeing of hauled animals if they can no longer be hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers/stockmen.
To address some of these “unintended consequences” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced the publication of a guidance document, also published as a rule (83 FR 26374, pp 26374-26377) to:
clarify the applicability of the ‘Agricultural commodity’ exception in the ‘Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers’ regulations. This regulatory guidance clarifies the exception with regard to: drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point; drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity; determining the ‘source’ of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and how the exception applies when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.
This is the latest of several attempts to clarify the rule as it relates to the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock and insects, since its adoption. Notably, the Electronic Logging Devices are not required for livestock transporters until September 2018.
FMCSA previously published guidance documents at the end of May 2018, including Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Rules and Regulatory Guidance: Transportation of Agricultural Commodities including Livestock.
“This regulatory guidance clarifies that the following operations are not subject to the Hours-of-Service Regulations while operating within 150 air-mile radius of the source of the commodity:”
Drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity, as defined in 395.2, or returning from a delivery point; and
Drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity are not subject to the hours of service regulations until they exit the 150 air-mile radius.
The guidance also clarifies that when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip only the first loading point can be considered a source, which results in an ongoing concern about how these regulations restrict livestock haulers from loading and delivering livestock without interruption.
To fix some of the unaddressed issues with the law, on June 26, 2018, as reported in a press release on Senator Deb Fischer’s (R-Neb.) website, “[a] bipartisan group of 24 senators . . . filed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide an hours of service exemption for certain agriculture transporters, including livestock haulers, which would provide greater flexibility to operators throughout the country.”
The amendment ‘would ensure that the exemption for operations within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of an agricultural commodity applies year-round and does not vary from one state to another for certain months of the year. The exemption currently applies to the planting and harvesting period, as determined by each state. It would also provide an additional 150 air-mile exemption on the back end of a trip, as it currently exists on the front end.’
Before time runs out, it will be important for these issues to be ironed out so livestock can be safely transported without unnecessary and stressful stops.