livestock truck hauling cattle Ben185/iStock/Thinkstock

Livestock groups seek guidance on DOT’s hours of service rules

Waiver and limited exemption sought from the Electronic Logging Device mandate while definitions such as the "source" of ag commodities are solidified.

Livestock groups urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to issue clarifying guidance on the DOT’s Hours of Service (HOS) rules for livestock haulers.

In a letter submitted to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and FMSCA Administrator Raymond Martinez, the organizations urged the DOT to grant livestock haulers a waiver and limited exemption from a mandate that they install Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) on their trucks until HOS rules are aligned with the animal welfare requirements of the livestock industry.

Under the current provisions of the HOS rules, commercial motor vehicles transporting livestock are exempt from logging requirements if they’re driving within a 150 air-mile radius of the location at which the animals were loaded. However, the exemption is not uniformly recognized and its implementation varies by state.

The DOT granted a 90-day waiver – until March 18, 2018 -- to livestock haulers from complying with the ELD mandate following the receipt of a letter signed livestock groups late last year.

While the industry continues to believe a delay of enforcement with respect to the electronic logging device mandate is essential to prevent catastrophic outcomes for stakeholders, the live animals hauled and American consumers, the industry is thankful to the agency for continued focus on addressing underlying hours of service concerns.

The 150-air mile agricultural commodity exemption described in 49 CFR 395.1(k)(1) can be a useful tool for haulers. Unfortunately, the exemption can only be used in many states during certain times of year. These times of year vary from state-to-state, making uniform application and use of the exemption impossible. Until recently, many livestock haulers and state law enforcement agencies were unaware of the application of the 150-air mile agricultural commodity exemption to livestock. With this new awareness comes additional need for clarity with respect to application in practice. This need for clarity is particularly more pressing when coupled with the unforgiving realities of using ELD technology.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or "MAP-21" amended the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 U.S.C. § 31136 note) to state that regulations regarding maximum driving and on-duty time for drivers do not apply to "[d]rivers transporting agricultural commodities from the source of the agricultural commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source." As a result, 49 CFR 395.1(k)(1) was promulgated. Live animal haulers can utilize the flexibility contemplated by the regulation as their cargo is defined as an "agricultural commodity" under 49 CFR 395.2. An agricultural commodity is "any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S. C. 1471] and insects)."

"We again urge the agency to grant a waiver and limited exemption from the Electronic Logging Device mandate while definitions such as the "source" of agricultural commodities are solidified," the letter said in conclusion. "This delay will enable FMCSA and the live animal hauling industry to undertake necessary training and outreach to fully understand and apply existing flexibilities and how they function with the new ELD devices."

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