The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to exempt livestock haulers from burdensome Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. In an Aug 11 announcement, the agency extended the most recent 30-day extension to now run through Sept. 14, 2020.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) welcomed the announcement.
NCBA executive director of government affairs Allison Rivera said, "Livestock haulers are crucial to keeping beef moving through the supply chain and on to grocery store shelves. We thank DOT and FMCSA for extending this exemption and giving crucial relief to critical infrastructure. While this is a win for the cattle industry, more still needs to be done. NCBA will continue to work with Congress and the Trump Administration to find a permanent fix for Hour of Service regulations.”
On July 6, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act into law, which required DOT to create and enforce an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule. DOT published a final rule regarding the electronic log books that became effective Feb. 16, 2016, stating that all motor carriers and drivers who were required to keep records of duty status (RODS) on paper must install and use an ELD no later than Dec. 18, 2017.
The ELD enforcement date and existing HOS regulations pose significant consequences for the livestock industry, NCBA said. 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,” NCBA said.
The current exemption allows anyone hauling agricultural commodities to be exempt from Hours of Service rules until they are outside of the 150-air-mile radius (172 road miles) of their pickup point. NCBA hopes to secure the same exemption for the back end of agricultural commodity hauls to provide further flexibility during the unloading period. NCBA asked for co-sponsorship of H.R. 4919, The Responsible Efficient Agriculture Destination Act. This bill was introduced by Reps. Angie Craig (D., Minn.) and Lloyd Smucker (R., Pa.).
This bill fixes the seasonality issue that about 10 states still face and adds the 150-air-mile exemption for agricultural commodity haulers from the source of a haul to also include the destination.