Livestock haulers face unique challenges and problems when delivering their cargo across the country. Livestock require water and feed and cannot be left in trailers indefinitely. Requiring drivers to stop for extended periods of time under the strict Hours of Service (HOS) regulations can lead to injury and loss of animals. Why is this important? Well, whether you're talking a T-Bone medium-rare for supper, bacon and eggs for breakfast, or that grilled chicken salad for lunch-whether livestock can be transported safely and efficiently across the country is important issue to you-at least three times a day-whether you think about it or not.
As we discussed back in February of this year, the Department of Transportation's December 2017 mandate requiring commercial drivers that are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to utilize Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) went into effect.
Although ELDs themselves have not changed the HOS regulations, the ELD mandate has brought to the forefront, the unique challenges faced by livestock haulers when confronted with the current HOS regulations.
Recognizing these challenges Congress has passes a series of extensions to livestock haulers extending the deadline for ELD compliance. The deadline is currently December 7, 2018, under the current continuing resolution, H.R. 6157. The Senate has also passed a spending bill that would extend the deadline through September 30, 2019. That bill must still pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the President before December 7, 2018, in order to take effect. While these extensions do at least post-pone some of the problems for livestock haulers that ELDs present, they are merely stop-gap measure, and do not address the long-term concerns facing livestock haulers.
For cattle haulers under the current HOS rules, individual drivers have two options after driving 11 hours-either they park the truck and trailer or they unload the cattle. In both situations they would need to wait the required 10 hours before getting back on the road. Each option gives rise to additional problems.
· A study from Canada showed spending more time in a trailer causes additional shrink for cattle. From 10 to 20 hours in a trailer, cattle will lose 6% to 7.5% in body fluid. At 24 to 28 hours, cattle will start to lose tissue, setting their performance back before reaching a final destination.
· Unloading cattle at facilities midway along a long haul has the possibility to cross contaminate with other cattle. This poses a major health risk for the animals and a bio-security risk to the food supply.
The larger concern for livestock haulers, and a long-term solution, is to revise the HOS regulations that apply to livestock haulers to address the animal welfare concerns while ensuring carriers are operating safely.
There are currently four areas of the HOS regulations where revisions could resolve the problems faced by livestock haulers. The possible revisions include:
· Expanding the current 100 air-mile "short-haul" exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
· extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
· revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving; and
· re-instating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment, or "split sleeper berth." This allows a driver to split up their rest time into smaller chunks rather than using it all in one block.
Each of these areas could help alleviate the problems facing livestock haulers as they try to ensure the animals they haul are moved safety and efficiently, while operating in a safe manner. The fact remains that ELDs are not going away, and continuing to "kick the can down the road" with enforcement deadline extensions do not solve the overarching problems facing livestock haulers.
The only long-term solution is to revise the HOS regulations applicable to livestock haulers, because the "one-size fits all" regulations, in their current iteration, do not work for livestock haulers and unnecessarily put livestock at risk. Solving these problems is important to each and every one of us. Remember, you only have an interest in agriculture, if: 1) you live in a house; 2) you wear clothes; or perhaps, 3) you still eat.