Agricultural transportation : HAULS Act provides much needed flexibility
The Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act was reintroduced to the Senate on March 17 by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN).
This legislation would extend hours-of-service (HOS) exemptions for agricultural and livestock haulers past designated planting and harvesting seasons, as well as clarify the definition of agricultural commodities, and most importantly, authorize a 150-air-mile exemption from HOS requirements to the final destination for commodity and livestock transportation.
“Nebraska’s ag and livestock haulers provide a critical service transporting food and fuel across the nation,” Fischer shares. “However, certain federal regulations fail to account for the unique circumstances involved in moving their products.”
She adds, “The HAULS Act builds on my previous work to help haulers transport their critical goods safely and efficiently.”
In a recent National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Beltway Beef podcast, Margaret Ann Smith, the owner of Southlex Cattle Company provides an industry perspective on the benefits of the HAULS Act.
“We forget the very important component of how food gets from the farm or ranch to processing and back to the table,” Smith shares. “In fact, we forget how many times an animal moves throughout it’s life from the cow/calf producer to the stockyards, to a feedyard, to the packer and finally onto the consumer.”
She notes transportation of livestock and commodities is a major component in agricultural markets and both producers and haulers need operational and easy ways to move product across the country.
“The HAULS Act will give us more flexibility to handle a perishable commodity,” Smith says, noting there are current exemptions available for hauling during certain planting and harvesting seasons. “But, this expands the exceptions for livestock.”
She continues, “The most important part, and the thing I hear talked about the most, between truckers and producers is the 150-air-mile exemption. Sometimes drivers have to change their destination due to weather or any other event that can happen on the road, impacting their final destination. They may be within 50 to 60 miles of their destination, but under the current rule, they have to stop for 10 hours.”
Smith explains this becomes an animal welfare concern.
The HAULS Act allows drivers to do what they know to be right and safe for themselves as well as livestock, according to Smith. She adds livestock haulers are unique and carry different skillsets than freight haulers.
“They have to handle their product and be trained in Beef Quality Assurance or Transportation Quality Assurance,” she says. “They know what they are doing to make sure animals get to their destination safely.”
Additionally, Smith shares this act shines light on another issue livestock haulers face.
“There are not a lot of places to unload cattle safely along a number of major interstates,” she shares. “There are a lot of components that just don’t work logistically because we are working with a live animal.”
In fact, Smith explains along with limited availability for unloading cattle, trailers are not designed to be docked and unloaded and is a major safety issue in itself.
“Through the pandemic, we have been working under an exemption for the last 14 to 15 months,” Smith states. “We have proven we are capable and competent to get animals off the road safely and in a timely manner under the exemption, so this helps us in securing this exemption in a more permanent place.”
NCBA President Jerry Bohn shares, “One year after COVID-19 began to disrupt daily life across the country, U.S. cattle producers continue to prove each day they are committed to keeping grocery stores stocked with beef. Livestock haulers are a critical component of the beef supply chain and flexibility in livestock hauling regulations remains vital.”
Mike Seyfert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association adds, “By expanding the agricultural exemption to trucking HOS rules, Sen. Fischer’s HAULS Act of 2021 would greatly increase the rules’ usefulness for agricultural haulers across the country. Moreover, the bill’s addition of feed ingredients would clarify which agricultural products, such as soybean meal and distillers’ grains, are eligible for the agricultural exemption and create more certainty in the trucking rules.”
Smith encourages producers to view this issue and exemptions at the state level, as well as encouraging other producers to address this as an industry.
“We are so unique in what we are faced with, and we are limited in the number of drivers who have the desire and knowledge to handle cattle,” she notes. “We are not asking for this exemption on a whim – this is a very well-studied and time-proven issue.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.