Responding to concerns over animal welfare, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) this week granted livestock truckers a limited 90-day waiver from a rest-break provision included in new hours-of-service rules.
The new rules, which took effect on July 1, require drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours of a shift, while also reducing the maximum average workweek for drivers from 82 hours to 70 hours.
FMCSA announced the new rules, which intend to improve safety, back in December 2011, allowing trucking companies and drivers time to adjust their schedules. According to the agency, only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, and more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce will see no changes. FMCSA estimates the new regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.
Livestock organizations however, expressed concerns over the 30-minute break requirement, believing it could increase stress on animals, especially during the hot summer months.
In its July 8 notice announcing the exemption, FMCSA notes that long-range weather forecasts call for hotter-than-average weather for much of the nation during July, August and September 2013. “The industry requested relief, and the Agency has determined that it is appropriate to grant a limited 90-day waiver for this period to ensure the well-being of the Nation's livestock during interstate transportation, they say. “The Agency has determined that the waiver, based on the terms and conditions imposed, would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.”
Livestock organizations are pleased with the temporary exemption, and likely will push to make it permanent. "This decision will help ensure the continued humane treatment and welfare of livestock while traveling on the nation's highways," says National Pork Producers Council president Randy Spronk. "By granting the 90-day waiver, the FMCSA will ensure that during hot summer months livestock won't be sitting in the sun for extended periods, with drivers unable to care for them because they're required to take a 30-minute break."