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Livestock haulers urge FMCSA action in wake of JBS cyberattack

Buttigieg asked to lift restrictions to avoid supply chain disruptions

Livestock haulers want work restrictions lifted following cyber hack on meat producer. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Livestock shippers are asking the Biden administration to issue an emergency waiver of work-rule restrictions for truckers hauling both livestock and meat products to avoid transportation delays in the wake of the cyberattack on global meat supplier JBS.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) asked for “emergency regulatory flexibility” from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“After reviewing reports from our members regarding the impact of the JBS outage, USCA strongly believes this event warrants immediate regulatory action to ensure grocery store shelves stay stocked of fresh meat products,” the letter states. In addition to livestock haulers, USCA represents cow-calf producers and feedlot operators.

The group referenced a statement made by JBS earlier in the week in which the company stated that resolving the cyber incident will take time and may cause delays for customers and suppliers.

“This ‘delay’ will create a major supply chain disruption, impacting both producers of livestock and consumers of meat at a time when the market is still recovering from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic,” USCA stated.

FMCSA and USCA were not immediately available to comment. FMCSA will typically issue emergency exemptions from parts 390 through 399 of federal motor carrier safety regulations – which include hours-of-service restrictions – if the agency determines that an event has the potential for widespread supply chain disruptions in the trucking sector.

FMCSA recently extended – once again – its initial emergency declaration exemption for haulers of supplies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes haulers of livestock and food products. It was unclear, however, whether disruptions caused by the JBS cyberattack would be covered under this exemption and/or if USCA was seeking relief beyond work-rule restrictions.

In May FMCSA issued a 17-state regional exemption for fuel haulers after the Colonial Pipeline was shut down by hackers. The incident resulted in temporary fuel shortages throughout the eastern region of the country.

Truck drivers specializing in livestock hauling have already been affected by the JBS attack, which has disrupted operations at JBS facilities across the U.S. and Canada. The White House said it was a ransomware attack likely caused by Russian hackers.

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  1. Edward Lester

    FMCSA has never been known to react to crises with speed. Slower than slow is their normal crisis response timing. Often drivers are left with empty trailers while FMCSA checks the wind direction. Its time to overhaul this constipated bureaucracy and get a smaller, more responsive, faster transport agency. Of course they will take it under advisement and get back to you at their usual glacial velocity.

    1. Richard Davis

      The FMCSA is suppose to be
      for safety on the roads. Letting livestock haulers just driver without a limit isn’t t safe. Just like exempting them from the use of ELDs. The FMCSA said they couldn’t do their job safely using an ELD. The only reason for that is for them be able to fudge/lie on their hours.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.