The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granted drivers who haul livestock an additional 90-day waiver from a regulation that could have negative effects on animal well-being.
A DOT rule issued in 2015 required truckers of commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce to replace their paper driving logs with Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) by Dec. 18, 2017. In September 2017, the National Pork Producers Counci petitioned the agency for a waiver and exemption from the requirement, and DOT provided an initial 90-day waiver — until March 18 — from the mandate for livestock haulers. A final decision on the request for an exemption still is pending.
ELDs, which can cost from $200 to $1,000 plus a $30 to $50 monthly fee, record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, miles driven and location information. They electronically report that data to federal and state inspectors and supposedly help the DOT enforce its Hours of Service regulation. That rule limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again.
But because livestock such as pigs are 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, NPPC argued in asking DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Raymond Martinez for the waivers.
“The U.S. pork industry is grateful to DOT Secretary [Elaine] Chao and FMCSA Administrator Martinez for this additional waiver from the ELD rule, which poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care,” said Jim Heimerl, NPPC president and a pork producer from Johnstown. “This will provide the department and Congress additional time to find a solution that meets the unique needs of livestock haulers.
“Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling regardless of any regulation.”
DOT did exempt from the Hours of Service regulations and from any distance-logging requirements truckers hauling livestock within a 150-air-mile radius of the location at which animals were loaded, but the exemption is not uniformly recognized and its implementation varies by state.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also applauded the agriculture exemption from the ELD mandate.
“The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers,” Perdue said. “Current ELD technologies do not recognize the hours-of-service exemptions for agriculture that are in federal law, leaving drivers to do twice the work by requiring use of both the ELD and traditional paper logs. This is a classic example of a one-size-fits-all federal regulation that ignores common sense to the detriment of sectors like agriculture.”
For more information on the hours-of-service exemption for agriculture shipments, visit this U.S. DOT web page: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/eld-hours-service-hos-and-agriculture-exemptions.