Wyatt Bechtel – Drovers
Two U.S. Senators proposed a bipartisan bill that would allow for reform of the hours of service and Electronic Logging Device regulations while also delaying enforcement. ( Wyatt Bechtel )
Livestock haulers could get further relief from the hours of service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations if a newly proposed bipartisan bill makes its way through the Senate. On June 12, Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act in an effort to reform the ELD and hours of service law. Additionally, the legislation would delay enforcement of the ELD until the reforms required under the bill are formally proposed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
“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,” says Senator Hoeven.
A working group would be established with the Department of Transportation to help identify complications in the current regulations that impede safe, humane and market-efficient transport of livestock. The working group would have a year to develop guidelines for regulatory or legislative action to improve the transportation of livestock. Members of the working group will come from the transportation and agriculture industries, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Areas the working group will address include:
- The impact, incompatibilities and other challenges and concerns of existing HOS rules and ELD rules under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 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 Transportation Secretary considers appropriate.
The Transportation Secretary is required to recommend regulatory changes to hours of service and ELD regulations within 120 days of receiving the working group’s report.
“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,” says Senator Hoeven.
“Our bipartisan legislation will provide farmers and ranchers a seat at the table to help develop sensible rules around the transportation of agricultural goods,” says Senator Bennet. “It is important that we maintain safe roads for all, while also recognizing the unique flexibility needed for the transportation of agriculture products.”
The following agriculture organizations have all supported the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act:
- National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)
- United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA)
- Livestock Marketing Association (LMA)
- American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)
- American Honey Producers Association (AHPA)
- Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union (RMFU)
NCBA President and 5th generation California cattleman Kevin Kester is believes this latest legislation will provide relief for livestock haulers.
“We look forward to continuing our work with members of Congress, industry groups, and the Department of Transportation as we work to find solutions to our current transportation concerns,” Kester says.
Kansas cattle hauling company owner and USCA Transportation Chair Steve Hilker believes the bill is a step in the right direction.
“This legislation will allow for the needed input and recommendations from both the livestock and transportation industries that were missing from the initial changes made to HOS regulations. The formation of a working group will allow workable and commonsense solutions to be presented, which will ensure safe transport of livestock and a path forward for both livestock haulers and the U.S. cattle industry,” Hilker says.
Ohio pork producer and NPPC President Jim Heimerl believes the bill will help find the best answer for animal welfare concerns.
“A trucker hauling livestock can’t just pull over and go ‘off-duty,’ leaving animals unattended. The incompatibility between the Hours of Service regulations and livestock hauling must be addressed,” Heimerl says.
The Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act is the latest in a number of legislative fixes that have been proposed prior to and since the ELD regulations started in Dec. 2017. Currently, livestock haulers are exempt from the ELD until Sept. 30, 2018.