Truck drivers hauling livestock and poultry received a reprieve last week with the Department of Transportation (DOT) announcement that they would be exempt for one year from a government regulation requiring drivers to take a half-hour break for every eight hours of service. This is in addition to all scheduled stops not counting time for refueling and other breaks.
In granting the exemption, the Department of Transportation said the waiver “was necessary to ensure the well-being of the nation’s livestock during interstate transportation.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Victoria, TX, cattleman, Bob McCan said the move alleviates many of the concerns of cattlemen and women as they face warmer temperatures this summer.
“This is great news for livestock producers and for the health of our herds,” said McCan. “As we come into summer, cattle producers have expressed concerns to the DOT that these rules would jeopardize the health and safety of our cattle. For over a year this has been a major priority for the NCBA and our members, but we will continue to urge DOT to make this exemption permanent. This exemption is a common sense move that keeps our herds and our nation’s highways safe.”
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) lobbied for a twoyear break from the July 2013 rule.
“This is an important development for the food-animal industry, particularly the pork industry,” said Howard Hill, President of the NPPC and a pork producer from Cambridge, IA. “Pigs don’t sweat, so we can’t have them sitting on a truck for 30 minutes in the height of summer.”
NPPC, along with other livestock groups, have pointed out that the break proposed by the government forces the livestock industry to choose between humane handling of animals or compliance.
“We recognize the need for our drivers to be safe on the road, and we’re pleased that DOT recognized that the rule presented an animal welfare issue for us,” said Hill, who thanked Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for recognizing the importance of the issue for livestock farmers and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his efforts to secure the exemption.
The Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimated there are 250,000 drivers in the United States who haul livestock, but only 120,000 drive long enough to benefit from the 30-minute break provision. A 90- day waiver was granted to livestock shippers last summer but it expired in early October, forcing livestock haulers to comply with the rest regulation.
“This requirement is part of the current hours of service rules for truck drivers to prevent fatigue-related crashes, although drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock within a 150 air-mile radius of the source of these commodities are already exempt from the HOS rules and are not affected by this action,” says a statement from the FMCSA.
The one-year exemption is based on the success of the 90-day exemption during the summer of 2013. FMC- SA did not notice any increase in safety incidents because of it.
The hours of service exemption will be effective immediately. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor