Livestock Haulers' Hours of Service Petition Submitted for Comment

A petition filed to the Department of Transportation (DOT) by livestock groups is seeking more flexibility to hours of service regulations. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

A petition has been submitted by a group of organizations representing livestock haulers and producers who would be impacted by ongoing hours of service rules.

The joint petition was filed on Feb. 6 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, and National Aquaculture Association. The groups sent the petition to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on behalf of livestock haulers to seek more flexibility in the hours of service regulation.

The same petition was submitted by the group on Oct. 15, 2018. Because of the government shutdown and a back log of other requests, it took a longer than expected time for the petition to be officially filed for public comment. 

According to LMA, there is a 60 day comment period for the petition that will end on March 8, 2019. Comments can be submitted on the federal government’s website.

The petition seeks a five year exemption on particular hours of service requirements.

The petition says, “We are concerned that the 11- and 14-hour rules were not drafted with livestock haulers in mind and thus do not accommodate the unique character of their loads and nature of their trips. In certain circumstances, livestock haulers are required to carry live animals over significant distances. Those circumstances are dictated by factors primarily and properly related to: the health and welfare of the livestock; the lifecycle of the livestock; and the locations of farms and ranches, viable grazing lands and feedlots, and final processing facilities. Therefore, the maximum driving and on-duty limits of the HOS rules as applied to livestock haulers’ operations may place the well-being of livestock at risk during transport and impose significant burdens on livestock haulers, particularly in rural communities across the country.”

Under current DOT rules the drive time limit is 11 hours and there is a 14 hour on-duty limit. The organizations would like to see drivers have up to 15 hours of drive time and 16 hour on-duty period, following a 10 hour consecutive rest period. To drive at the extended time livestock haulers would be required to complete pre-trip planning and increased fatigue-management training.

There are a number of areas outlined in the 27 page petition including:

  1. Scope of Proposed Exemption
  2. FMCSA Authority to Grant This Exemption
  3. FMCSA’s Prior Findings on Regulatory Relief for Livestock Hauling
  4. Estimate of the Drivers, CMVs, and Trips Under the Exemption
  5. Assessment of Safety Impacts of the Exemption
  6. Ensuring an Equivalent or Greater Level of Safety under the Exemption
  7. Negative Impacts if the Exemption is Not Granted

Livestock haulers and producers are focused on both public safety and the health and well-being of livestock being transported across the country, says Allison Rivera, NCBA’s Executive Director of Government Affairs, who is a co-signer on the petition.

“If granted, the petition would give livestock haulers the flexibility they need to protect the welfare of the cattle in their care. We look forward to filing comments in support of the petition and will encourage our affiliates, members, and livestock haulers to do the same,” Rivera says.

Echoing those thoughts was another co-signer of the petition, Jara Settles, LMA’s General Counsel.

“LMA is pleased to see our temporary exemption request moving forward through the regulatory process. The current hours of service rules simply do not work from an animal welfare perspective. The framework of safety and flexibility outlined in the request will help our nation’s livestock haulers do their jobs in a responsible and appropriate manner. We encourage market owners, producers, truckers, and members of Congress to submit comments in support of this important petition for regulatory relief,” Settles says.

The issue of hours of service has been on the forefront of policy issues for a number of agriculture trade organizations in the lead up and implementation of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulation. For more than a year, livestock haulers have been exempt to the ELD and have been able to work with paper logs to monitor hours of service. The petition is part of a number of efforts, including the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely (TLAAS) Act, that are seeking to reform hours of service rules before livestock haulers officially are required to utilize ELDs.

For more stories on developments in the ELD and hours of service rules read: