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Livestock Haulers Need ELD delay and HOS Flexibility

Written by Niels Hansen

Livestock haulers have a challenging task of ensuring motorist safety while also maximizing the health and welfare of animals transported. Unfortunately, the impending Dec. 18, 2017 electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) rules do not adequately accommodate this subset of the industry.

These requirements may force small business owners out of the marketplace while having the unintended impact of decreasing driver safety and jeopardizing the wellbeing of hauled animals if they can no longer be hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers/stockmen. As such, we must see some action. The current ELD enforcement deadline must be delayed no less than one year to allow adequate time for industry concerns to be addressed as well as necessary educational programming to be conducted. HOS rules applying to livestock haulers must be made more flexible, so drivers can safely do their jobs while preserving the welfare of the animals for which they care.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association has been actively involved with this issue and advocates a delay of rules to allow these challenges to be addressed.

Concerns with implementation of the ELD enforcement deadline of Dec. 18, 2017 exist. Industry members and authorities need more time for concerns to be addressed, as well as time for sufficient training and education to be provided for uniform compliance and enforcement.

Currently, ELD vendors can self-certify regulatory compliance of their devices. Industry is concerned that the responsibility to conduct compliance monitoring, as well as liability for non-compliant devices, will fall to haulers. Industry is also concerned if and how individuals other than law enforcement may access data collected, which may contain protected personal information.

Finally, livestock haulers benefit from certain exemptions under the HOS rules. Unfortunately, haulers and law enforcement may not be aware of the existence of such exemptions and especially a recent Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) interpretation first provided in May 2017.

Also, ELD training is not yet incorporated into industry programs, such as Pork and Beef Quality Assurance.

Thus, the ELD implementation deadline must be delayed no less than one year for additional education and device testing in the livestock industry.

HOS rules must also be made more flexible to account for unique issues inherent to livestock hauling.

Current HOS rules mandate a driver only be “on duty” for 14 hours and actively driving for no more than 11 of those hours. Once a driver hits those maximum hour allotments, they must stop and rest for 10 consecutive hours. The livestock and insect industries would like to see more flexibility or an exemption on HOS rules to meet the realities of hauling live animals. 

For example, calves born in the Southeast and West are regularly hauled hundreds of miles to the Plains and Midwest for grazing pastures and feedyards. Loading and waiting time to load animals is inherently unpredictable. Livestock haulers may “run out of hours” a short distance from the conclusion of their run. Research demonstrates that repeated unloading and loading of animals creates stress, harming the livestock, as well as the hauler.

The vast majority of livestock hauls can be safely completed via longer periods of drive time with minor modifications to the HOS rule.

Industry is working on a long-term solution to this issue while also taking into account new FMCSA guidance on a current flexibility.

More information on this issue can be found at fmcsa.dot.gov, wysga.org or lmaweb.com.