Current hours-of-service rules allow for 11 hours of drive time, 14 hours of on-duty time, and then require 10 consecutive hours of rest. When transporting livestock, there is a real need for further flexibility beyond the current hours-of-service. Unlike drivers moving consumer goods, livestock haulers cannot simply idle or unload their trucks when drive time hours run out without jeopardizing animal health and welfare.
In order to provide regulator relief for agricultural truckers, Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., re-introduced the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety Act of 2021– a bill based on legislation first introduced in 2020 – that includes updates to the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules.
The HAULS Act would add a 150 air-mile radius exemption under HOS regulations to the backend of hauls for those transporting livestock or agricultural commodities. This legislation also eliminates the seasonal harvest requirements for the agriculture HOS exemption (making the exemption available year-round in all states), and updates and clarifies the definition of an agricultural commodity based on feedback provided by agriculture and livestock organizations.
Since its inception in 1995, the agricultural exemption to HOS rules has been vitally important to the food and agriculture industry, helping to ensure a more efficient and cost-effective freight transportation distribution system, the National Grain and Feed Association states.
Mike Seyfert, NGFA President and CEO, says the bill’s addition of feed ingredients would clarify that agricultural products, such as soybean meal and distillers grains, are eligible for the agricultural exemption and create more certainty in the trucking rules.
“The HAULS Act makes incremental, but crucial, changes that would help accommodate the seasonal spikes in transportation of food, fiber and other agricultural supplies that ensure our country stays healthy and fed,” says NGFA Vice President of Economics and Government Relations Max Fisher. “This legislation, supported by more than 100 agricultural and livestock organizations, ensures haulers have the flexibility they need to deliver perishable products.”
The HAULS Act of 2021 couldn’t be re-introduced at a more needed time, notes Kristi Block, executive vice president of Nebraska Grain and Feed Association. “Clarity keeps the transport of agricultural products moving when there are unforeseen bottlenecks with from Mother Nature and ‘Acts of God’ such as Nebraska’s 2019 floods, the pandemic and the most recent utterly cold temperatures experienced in the Midwest halting some animal feed manufacturing.”
Livestock groups, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, have successfully fought every month for a renewed emergency declaration which provides an exemption from hours-of-service for livestock haulers, while also working with Congress to maintain the Electronic Logging Delay (ELD) delay for livestock haulers until Sept. 30, 2021.
“Livestock haulers are a critical component of the beef supply chain and flexibility in livestock hauling regulations remains vital,” says NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “NCBA strongly supports this bipartisan effort to provide livestock haulers with the flexibility they need to maintain the highest level of safety on the roads, transport livestock humanely, and ensure beef remains available to consumers.”
NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera adds, “NCBA has long advocated against one-size-fits-all regulations for the live haul sector, and the COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the need for flexibility when it comes to livestock hauling. The HAULS Act represents the best long-term solution — a permanent change to existing hours-of-service regulations that preserves animal welfare as well as safety on our roads, while also making sure producers can keep our grocery stores stocked with beef.”
“The HAULS Act would help mitigate situations where a hauler is forced to choose between compliance with federal law or the health and welfare of the livestock on board,” says William Rhea III, president of the Nebraska Cattlemen.
Jara Settles, Livestock Marketing Association general counsel and vice president of risk mitigation, says LMA member markets and the farmers and ranchers they serve need a long-term and meaningful solution to the lack of flexibility in this space. “The HAULS Act goes a long way toward achieving that flexibility,” Settles says.