A Senate proposed bill called “The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act” has the potential to significantly change Hours of Service (HOS) rules and ELD enforcement for thousands of drivers.
The bill aims to modify HOS requirements for transporters of livestock and insects. Now that ELD enforcement has started, industry stakeholders are more divided than ever on whether livestock truck drivers should have to comply to the same HOS limitation that other drivers do.
Read on to gain a full understanding of the situation and come to your own conclusion on this debate.
What the Livestock Exemption Bill Says
The bill only applies to drivers transporting livestock (as defined in section 602 of the Agricultural Act of 1949) or insects. And the proposed hours of service exemption would only be applicable to drivers who travel no more than 300-air miles from their pick-up point. Here are the details of the proposed bill.
Livestock drivers would be exempt from hours of service requirements in the following situations:
A) at a plant, terminal, facility, or other property of a motor carrier or shipper or on any public property during which the driver is waiting to be dispatched.
B) loading or unloading a commercial motor vehicle.
C) supervising or assisting in the loading or unloading of a commercial motor vehicle.
D) attending to a commercial motor vehicle while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded.
E) remaining in readiness to operate a commercial motor vehicle; and
F) giving or receiving receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded.
In addition, the proposed bill states:
1) the driver may take 1 or more rest periods during the trip, which shall not be included in the calculation of the driving time;
2) after completion of the trip, the driver shall be required to take a rest break for a period that is 5 hours less than the maximum driving time under paragraph (2);
3) if the driver is within 150 air-miles of the point of delivery, any additional driving to that point of delivery shall not be included in the calculation of the driving time; and
4) the 10-hour rest period under section 395.3(a)(1) of that title shall not apply.
The Argument for Support
Supporters of the bill say the current one-size-fits-all HOS rules do not make sense when it comes to transporting live animals. They say that forcing a driver to stop and wait 10 hours before driving again strands the animals in potentially dangerous conditions.
One supporter of the bill is The National Pork Producers Council. They argue that pigs and other livestock are vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures.
Steve Hilker, a Transportation Committee Chairman for the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), also voiced support for the livestock exemption bill. In a Progressive Farmer article, Hilker says the ELD mandate (which digitally records and reports HOS compliance) leaves cattle potentially stranded roadside on a truck. “The list of poor outcomes begins to grow exponentially almost immediately,” says Hilker. He also raises the concern that putting livestock haulers through this would only add pressure to an already “thinly populated driver pool.”
The Argument for Opposition
Those against the bill say making an exemption defeats the purpose of the hours-of-service rules: increased safety for people on our roadways.
And opposers say making an exemption for a federal regulation is a slippery slope. They worry that once there is an exemption for one portion of the industry, it will set a precedent and potentially open the door to more exemptions down the road.
One key opponent of the bill is the American Trucking Associations (ATA). In an interview with Transport Topics, Bill Sullivan, leader of advocacy for ATA, stated, “lives of livestock should not be a priority over the lives of people. Sullivan goes on to say, “This bill would allow truck drivers to stay behind the wheel for almost twice as long as they’re permitted under the current hours-of-service rules, it needlessly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of people who travel our highways.”
Current Status for Livestock Haulers
This bill was just introduced on May 23, 2018, so it is still in the first stage of the legislative process. It is typical for a bill like this to first be considered by a committee before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate. If both the House and Senate pass the bill, it must then be signed by the President to become law.
However, it doesn’t look promising for supporters of the bill.
An A.I.-powered data analysis firm called Skopos Labs predicts the bill has just a 4% chance of becoming law.
Currently, there is a temporary exemption for livestock and insect haulers until September 30, 2018. But, livestock truckers will have to start complying with current ELD and HOS rules if nothing is passed by that time.