The enforcement of hours of service (HOS) rule and using electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial truck drivers has been a topic of discussion, and in some cases confusion since the regulations were announced as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012.
The rules require commercial truck drivers to install ELDs in the cab of their trucks to record a driver’s Record of Duty Status. The device replaces the paper logbook traditionally used to record compliance with HOS requirements.
The premise behind the ELD is to help create a safer worker environment for drivers and make it easier to accurately track and manage HOS. The rub with livestock haulers came about because of their commitment to safely and timely deliver live animals without having to stop when their allowable “on-duty” time had been reached. Agricultural commodity haulers also raised concern because of the perishable nature of products they haul.
Those truckers have received some relief with delays in ELD implementation, but time is running out. Truckers hauling agricultural commodities will be required to start using ELDs on June 18; livestock haulers have until Sept. 30 under the current rules.
As previously reported in WLJ, federal legislation has been introduced to increase flexibility, allowing a driver to complete a haul without having to be concerned about reaching an HOS limit in the middle of a trip and putting the animals in his or her care in danger.
On June 12 an additional bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND and Michael Bennet (D-CO) to establish a multi-stakeholder working group to reform U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations regarding HOS and ELD rules. The Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act would delay enforcement of the ELD rule until the secretary of transportation proposes reforms.
In introducing the bill, Hoeven said, “Improving highway safety is an important goal, but the rules we put in place must recognize the very real challenges faced by those who haul livestock and other perishable commodities. Our legislation would delay enforcement while ensuring that the HOS and ELD rules are reformed with the concerns of all impacted stakeholders taken into account. That means providing a permanent, flexible solution that both strengthens safety and ensures the humane transportation of livestock.”
Bennet had this to say: “Our bipartisan legislation will provide Colorado’s farmers and ranchers a seat at the table to help develop sensible rules around the transportation of agricultural goods. It is important that we maintain safe roads while also recognizing the unique flexibility needed for the transportation of Colorado’s agriculture products.”
The proposed working group would be comprised of representatives from the transportation and agriculture industries, as well as the USDA, and is required to consider:
• The impact, incompatibilities and other challenges and concerns of existing HOS rules and ELD rules under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the commercial transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities.
• Initiatives and regulatory changes that maintain and protect highway safety and allow for the safe, efficient and productive marketplace transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities.
• Other related issues that the secretary of transportation considers appropriate.
Additionally, within 120 days of receiving the working group’s report, the secretary of transportation must propose regulatory changes to the HOS and ELD regulations, taking into account the findings and recommendations of the working group.
Allison Rivera, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of government affairs, told WLJ the provision to have a working group is seen as a positive move. “It basically puts everybody at the table, including DOT, to sit down and try to figure out this hours of service issue that everyone around trucking is talking about right now. It’s not just us.”
She added that delaying ELD enforcement until an agreement is reached was another point that helped the cattle organization offer support for the legislation.
In addition to NCBA, other agricultural organizations voicing support for the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act include: National Pork Producers Council, United States Cattlemen’s Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Honey Producers Association, and the Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union.
Also, late on June 12, a measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL-3) that would require the secretary of transportation to modify HOS requirements when hauling certain live animals. Introduced as H.R. 6079, the measure had 45 original cosponsors.
Speaking with WLJ, Rivera said, Yoho’s bill is similar to a bill on the Senate side presented by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). “Now we have a bill on the House side and the Senate side to address hours of service flexibility for the livestock hauling community,” she said.
Keeping in mind that safety of animals and drivers is always top of mind Rivera added a final thought on the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act, saying, “This also keeps the conversation with DOT going, again stressing to them the need to work with us to find a workable solution where the roads are still perfectly safe, but we can get our animals where they need to go.” — Rae Price, WLJ editor