THE U.S. Department of Transportation granted truck drivers hauling livestock and poultry a one-year exemption from an hours-of-service rule that took effect last July 1.
The hours-of-service rule required all commercial motor vehicle operators, including livestock transporters, to take a 30-minute rest break for every eight hours of service.
For drivers transporting livestock and poultry, the hours of service includes loading and unloading animals. This is in addition to all scheduled stops, not counting time for refueling and other breaks.
In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted livestock haulers a 90-day waiver during the hot summer months, with no adverse effects to safety.
FMCSA, as authorized by Congress, carefully considers and collects public comments on all applications for exemptions from federal regulations, including hours of service for truck drivers. To date, FMCSA has received four petitions for exemptions, which address only the 30-minute break requirement of the hours-of-service rule, and this is the second exemption to be granted.
National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) president and Texas cattle producer Bob McCan said the move alleviates many of the concerns cattle producers had as warmer temperatures approach this summer.
"This is great news for livestock producers and for the health of our herds," McCan said. "As we come into summer, cattle producers have expressed concerns to the DOT that these rules would jeopardize the health and safety of our cattle. For over a year, this has been a major priority for the NCBA and our members, but we will continue to urge DOT to make this exemption permanent. This exemption is a commonsense move that keeps our herds and our nation's highways safe."
National Pork Producers Council president Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Iowa, added that this is an important development for the food animal industry, particularly the pork industry, because "pigs don't sweat, so we can't have them sitting on a truck for 30 minutes in the height of summer."
John Starkey, U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. president, said while many poultry transport operations were already exempt from the 30-minute rest break requirement due to the short-haul exception in the existing regulation, this ruling reduces the possibility of animals being harmed in those situations when the short-haul exception does not apply.
"We will request that FMCSA use this year to further evaluate the rest break requirement and make the exemption permanent for livestock haulers," Starkey said.
The hours-of-service exemption went into effect immediately.