Lawmakers support hours of service waiver


By Jessica Domel

Citing concerns for the welfare of livestock and the health of the agricultural industry, a group of 59 Congressmen and women urge the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to grant an hours of service (HOS) waiver to livestock haulers.

“The current HOS rules do not accommodate the needs of livestock haulers,” the letter said. “These haulers routinely complete long trips due to the vast geography of production and processing facilities, which span from coastal states to the Midwest.”

Federal HOS regulations limit drive time for haulers at 11 hours with a maximum on-duty limit of 14 hours.

“Restrictive drive-time limits and extended mandatory stops are not manageable for haulers transporting live animals, especially when considering animal health and safety,” the letter said. “We must ensure a framework is in place to properly address the unique needs of livestock haulers.”

With a maximum on-duty limit of 14 hours, drivers would be required to stop for 10-hours. Drivers and agricultural organizations argue this time span is too long to keep livestock waiting on a trailer.

“Any disruption to the livestock hauling industry will cause an immediate and dramatic impact to not only those directly involved in production agriculture but also to millions of Americans who will see a spike in the price of healthy, safe protein in the meat case,” the letter said.

The lawmakers urged FMCSA to reconsider how HOS regulations impact agriculture and find a way to ensure the safe transportation of livestock while also maintaining appropriate driver safety standards.

“Congress has continually recognized the unique nature of hauling agricultural commodities over the past decades,” the letter said. “Recognizing that one-size-fits-all approaches to regulation and governance do not work for niche groups like livestock haulers is the prime reason Congress has empowered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to grant flexibility via the exemption process.”

According to the letter, in exchange for a handful of additional driving hours, drivers wishing to use the exemption will complete additional fatigue management training and will avail themselves of necessary pre-trip planning, self-auditing procedures and certification to the agency to prove their safety.

Texas Congressmen Randy Weber, Mac Thornberry and Kevin Brady all signed the letter to FMCSA.

The agency is currently reviewing comments submitted on a proposal to revise HOS regulations for drivers hauling live animals.

All truck drivers are required to comply with current HOS regulations.

Livestock and insect haulers are currently exempt from a federal electronic logging device (ELD) requirement through Dec. 7. The exemption is tied to federal funding and may expire or be continued depending on action by the administration and/or Congress.

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