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Livestock groups petition for ag trucking rule changes

Ben185/iStock/Thinkstock livestock truck hauling cattle
Request seeks flexibility on Hours-of-Service requirements for livestock haulers.

Organizations representing livestock, bee and fish haulers across the country submitted a petition Monday to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting additional flexibility on Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule requirements. The petition asks for a five-year exemption from certain HOS requirements for livestock haulers and encourages DOT to work with the livestock industry to implement additional fatigue management practices.

Current rules limit driving time to 11 hours and limit on-duty hours to 14. Instead, the organizations are requesting that livestock haulers be granted approval to drive up to 15 hours with a 16-hour on-duty period, following a 10-hour consecutive rest period. Any livestock hauler wishing to operate under the extended drive time would be required to complete pre-trip planning and increased fatigue management training.

“We are concerned that the 11- and 14-hour rules were not drafted with livestock haulers in mind and, thus, do not accommodate the unique character of their loads and nature of their trips,” the organizations wrote. The current requirements “place the well-being of livestock at risk during transport and impose significant burdens on livestock haulers, particularly in rural communities across the country.”

Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president, said, “When livestock and other live animals are transported, it’s important to get them to their destination safely and without delay or disruption. Safety for the driver and others on the road is a priority. That is why we are petitioning DOT to adopt modern fatigue management practices that provide the same or greater level of safety while avoiding unintended and unnecessary stress on the animals entrusted to our care.”

The strong safety record of livestock haulers demonstrates their ability to ensure the well-being of both live animals and other drivers on the road, the groups said in their petition. A 2014 analysis by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that livestock haulers were underrepresented in truck-involved fatal crashes. Data cited in the petition also showed that, between 2013 and 2015, livestock haulers accounted for 6.6% of all commercial drivers but less than 1% of crashes involving large trucks.

“Livestock haulers are highly trained professionals who take careful steps to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Through this petition, we hope to work with DOT to build on our industry’s strong safety record and provide haulers with some additional relief from overly restrictive Hours-of-Service requirements,” said Kevin Kester, fifth-generation California rancher and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA).

Australia already implements rules for livestock haulers that focus on safety outcomes instead of prescriptive limits.

The latest petition encourages DOT to work with industry to develop and implement similar measures.

“Livestock auction markets are particularly impacted by livestock transportation,” said Tom Frey, Livestock Marketing Assn. (LMA) president and owner of the Creston Livestock Auction of Creston, Iowa. “Animals are hauled into and out of markets every day. It is one of LMA’s primary goals that such movement be accomplished in a safe manner for livestock and motorists alike. We feel this petition is yet another step toward necessary flexibilities for our haulers while taking proactive measures to preserve safety.”

The petition was signed by NCBA, LMA, AFBF, the American Beekeeping Federation, the American Honey Producers Assn. and the National Aquaculture Assn.

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