THE U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is accepting comments regarding the livestock industry's application for an exemption from the 30-minute rest break provision of the agency's hours-of-service regulations for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
According to FMCSA, the exemption would enable all CMV drivers transporting livestock to operate without taking a break during the workday if eight hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
FMCSA implemented a rule July 1 mandating a 30-minute rest period for all CMV drivers. CMV drivers hauling livestock are currently operating under a 90-day waiver that expires Oct. 9.
The application, which the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed on behalf of its members and other agricultural organizations, calls for a more permanent exemption for livestock haulers. Comments on the requested change are being accepted until Sept. 11.
In the initial petition, agricultural groups stated that livestock trucks do not employ separate ventilation systems on their vehicles and, as such, rely on air moving through the trailers as the truck is in motion. Forcing the trucks off the road for 30-minute breaks in high heat or severe cold could lead to animal deaths, the petition points out.
Because a waiver may not be granted for more than 90 days and may not be renewed, NPPC also is requesting an exemption that may extend up to two years and may be renewed. The exemption would be issued to the same carriers and drivers and under the same terms and conditions as the waiver, except that the exemption would be for a two-year period.
A spokesperson for NPPC said the group is encouraging its members to comment on the exemption request.
In the Aug. 12 Federal Register, FMCSA calculated that as of July 3, the Motor Carrier Management Information Systems listed 64,892 motor carriers that identified livestock as one type (though not necessarily the only type) of cargo they transported.
These carriers operate 187,606 vehicles and employ 242,676 drivers. Also, 126,471 of these drivers operate within a 100 air-mile radius of their work-reporting location — an important fact because existing statutory exemptions provide relief from the hours-of-service requirements for these drivers.
The exemption would not be applicable to drivers whose operation is limited to 150 air-miles from their work-reporting location, leaving fewer than 116,205 drivers likely to utilize the requested relief from the 30-minute rest break provision.
FMCSA clarified that due to a recent court ruling, short-haul drivers would not be subject to the 30-minute break provision of the new hours-of-service rules.
The American Trucking Associations sued FMCSA in an effort to overturn the rules. The National Chicken Council and many other groups supported the effort. The Aug. 2 court decision marked the third time in 10 years that the appeals court has ruled on the issue of driver hours.
"The safe transportation of our livestock is a top priority for U.S. beef producers," said Kent Bacus, associate director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. "We have invested a significant amount of time and resources to develop our own educational programs to make sure beef producers across the country apply the safest and most efficient ways to load, transport and unload livestock."