Safety, trucking groups blast ELD exemption bill for ag, livestock haulers

 Efforts are being made to exempt livestock and certain agricultural haulers from ELD and hour-of-service rules, but a trucking group and safety advocacy organization are fighting back. ( Photo: Truckstockimages.com )

Efforts are being made to exempt livestock and certain agricultural haulers from ELD and hour-of-service rules, but a trucking group and safety advocacy organization are fighting back. (Photo: Truckstockimages.com)

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and The Trucking Alliance, a coalition of trucking companies, have written senators asking them to oppose legislation introduced in May that would exempt livestock haulers from ELD requirements.

The bill, “The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act (S. 2938),” was introduced on May 23 by Sen. Benjamin Sasse (R-NE). In their letter, the two groups said the bill will do nothing for improving roadway safety and will just open the door to livestock drivers potentially driving for 24 hours or more with no breaks.

“We acknowledge that livestock haulers are unique, in that they are delivering live cargo; however, they are not the only carriers who haul time sensitive commodities,” the letter, signed by Catherine Chase, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Lane Kidd, managing director of The Trucking Alliance, states. “Produce haulers, for example, use other legal means such as teams or relays to get their products to market safely and timely. Instead of exempting livestock haulers from this safety requirement, they should be encouraged to develop an answer to their logistics management issue. Regardless of commodities hauled, we should never sacrifice the safety of the general public sharing our highways or the truck drivers delivering them for the purpose of getting any product to market.”

The bill would exempt much of the time a livestock driver spends not driving from their official on-duty time. It would apply to “a driver transporting livestock (as defined in section 602 of the Agricultural Act of 1949 (7 U.S.C. 1471)) or insects within a 300 air-mile radius from the point at which the on-duty time of the driver begins with respect to the trip.”

It goes on to state that the on-duty time of a driver shall exclude all time spent:

  • 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;
  • loading or unloading a commercial motor vehicle;
  • supervising or assisting in the loading or unloading of a commercial motor vehicle;
  • attending to a commercial motor vehicle while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded;
  • remaining in readiness to operate a commercial motor vehicle; and
  • giving or receiving receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded;

It also states that:

  • the driver may take 1 or more rest periods during the trip, which shall not be included in the calculation of the driving time;
  • 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);
  • 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
  • the 10-hour rest period under section 395.3(a)(1) of that title shall not apply.

In addition to the recent clarification of the air-mile rule for agricultural and livestock haulers, the bill would in essence exempt many drivers from using an ELD and increase their available driving hours, the two groups argue. The recent clarification from FMCSA said that drivers moving within 150 air-miles of their source (plant, farm, etc.) are exempt from using ELDs and the time spent in that range does not count against hours-of-service limits.

“Moreover, the legislation would codify the increased hours into federal law without any scientific data to support it,” the letter stated. “For example, current federal regulations allow a truck driver to operate a vehicle a maximum of 11 hours. After 11 hours, the driver must take a 10 hour off-duty break. S.2938 would allow thousands of truck drivers to operate 80,000-pound tractor trailers for as many as 24 hours straight.”

The groups go on to point out the precedent this bill could set. “While ostensibly these increases are for agricultural haulers, the proposed changes to the hours’ limits would compel many similarly situated local and regional haulers to request comparable exemptions,” it said. “This would have the effect of nullifying to a very significant degree the HOS limits the FMCSA has established for much of the industry.”

The groups paint a scenario where drivers could be forced to drive back and forth within the limits set forth by the bill, never exceeding drive times, but never getting adequate rest.

“Further, S.2938 would not require the truck driver to record anything about the number of hours s/he has been working, if s/he stays within a 300-air mile distance from the freight pick-up location. Such a proposal would allow a trucking company to force truck drivers back and forth, from pickup to delivery, for hours on end, to the point of complete exhaustion, endangering not only the truck driver’s health, but also the safety of the general public,” it said.

The fight to get livestock and ag hauler exempted took another turn yesterday when Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced a bill (S. 3051) that would direct the “Secretary of Transportation to establish a working group to study regulatory and legislative improvements for the livestock, insect, and agricultural commodities transport industries, and for other purposes.”

Text for that bill is not yet available, but the implication is clear: make it easier for these haulers to move commodities.