Livestock hauler legislation reintroduced

House and Senate introduce companion bills to offer relief on Hours-of-Service rules.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

May 2, 2019

4 Min Read

Bills in both the Senate and House look to offer a bipartisan solution to change a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that requires drivers who haul live animals to adhere to strict time constraints monitored by electronic logging devices (ELDs), exempting them from some road time requirements and allowing them to better care for the live animals they are transporting.

Sens. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) introduced their bill, the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act, to provide livestock haulers with regulatory relief from the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. As a companion bill to the Senate’s version, House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and Rep. Greg Pence (R., Ind.) announced May 2 the introduction of H.R. 2460, the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act.

"Ranchers and livestock haulers face unique circumstances when hauling live animals, and the rules should reflect that," Tester said. "This bill gives them the flexibility they need to safely transport their product and get it to market in time while protecting both the animals and their bottom line."

Starting Dec. 18, 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) required commercial vehicle drivers to install an ELD in their truck.  The ELD will track driver compliance with the HOS rules by connecting to the engine to log vehicle motion. FMCSA exempted livestock haulers from this requirement until further review of a petition filed by the livestock industry. Delay language was also included through the appropriations process.

Related:DOT permanently suspends ELD requirement for livestock haulers

For livestock, live fish and insects, HOS rules require that haulers turn on their ELD after they cross a 150-air mile radius of the origin of their load (such as cattle). After crossing a 150-air mile radius, haulers must start tracking their on-duty time and can only drive 11 hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour rest time. While FMCSA is evaluating the impact of the HOS requirements for livestock, it is not expected to make any substantial changes through the issued guidance.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Provides that HOS and ELD requirements are inapplicable until after a driver travels more than 300 air miles from a source. Drive time for HOS purposes does not start until after the 300-air mile threshold.

  • Exempts loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.

  • Extends the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time.

  • Grants flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.

  • Allows drivers to complete their trip – regardless of HOS requirements – if they come within 150 air miles of their delivery point.

  • Ensures that, after the driver completes the delivery and the truck is unloaded, the driver will take a break for a period that is five hours less than the maximum on-duty time (10 hours if a 15-hour drive time).

In a statement from Basse’s office, he noted that the inflexibility of these regulations will be costly for haulers (who have a proven safety record) and puts the well-being and welfare of cattle, hogs and other livestock at risk. Current law does not allow flexibility for hauled livestock and insects to reach their destination given the vast geography of production and processing facilities, most often spanning from coastal states to the Midwest. Extended stops for a hauler, which would be necessitated by these HOS regulations, are especially dangerous for livestock during summer or winter months; high humidity and winter temperatures with below-freezing wind chills cause significant stress on livestock.

Nebraska Cattlemen president Mike Drinnin stated, “One-size-fits-all federal regulations endanger the health and welfare of livestock by failing to account for the intricacies involved with hauling live animals. This legislation provides needed flexibility for livestock haulers while continuing to maintain the safety of our roads.”

The bills would require the secretary of transportation to establish a working group to study regulatory and legislative improvements for the livestock, insect and agricultural commodity transport industries.

The working group would be responsible for presenting the secretary of agriculture with a report identifying the “initiatives and regulatory changes that maintain and protect the safety of highways and allow for the safe, efficient and productive marketplace transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities.”

Members of the working group would include governors, representatives of state and local agricultural and highway safety agencies, other representatives of relevant state and local agencies and members of the public with experience in the livestock, insect and agricultural commodity industries.

The legislation is supported by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., U.S. Cattlemen’s Assn. (USCA) and Livestock Marketing Assn.

In a statement, USCA Transportation Committee chairman Steve Hilker said, “We applaud Congress for working every angle to come up with solutions that would allow for the safe and efficient movement of cattle throughout the country. New regulations, imposed in 2017, do not work for the livestock transportation industry. We’ve been working strategically with members of Congress and the Administration to find regulations that enhance highway safety while also allowing transporters to deliver their live cargo as humanely as possible."

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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