Transporting cattle and other livestock could become much more difficult if a set of congressionally mandated trucking rules go into effect before the end of the year. The regulations have the potential to cause devastating disruptions in how livestock are hauled, creating biosecurity hazards and animal welfare issues.
On Dec. 18, 2017, the federal Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will go into effect for commercial motor vehicles. At press time, DOT placed a 90-day delay on the implementation ELDs for agriculture commodities. The waiver is supposed to offer more time for comments and to come to a compromise on hours of service.
ELDs are record-keeping devices synchronized to a truck engine that digitally log information. In real-time an ELD records data such as time spent on the road, miles driven, location and engine hours.
The regulations were supposed to create safer driving conditions and help eliminate the need for paper logs. Unfortunately, lawmakers didn’t consider what the regulations might mean for livestock haulers.
The voluntary introductory phase for the ELDs officially began on Dec. 16, 2015.
“This is going to be a disaster for livestock transportation for anything over 500 miles,” says Steve Hilker, Steve Hilker Trucking Inc., Cimarron, Kan.
Hilker isn’t opposed to using ELDs, but he disagrees with the hours of service mandate. Under the ELD rule, truckers are limited to an 11-hour driving limit in 24 hours. Drivers can work up to 14 hours consecutively, including 11 hours of drive time. After 11 hours, drivers must rest and be off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.
“There has never been any consideration for a living, breathing cargo,” Hilker says.
For long hauls, such as bringing calves from Florida or California to the cattle feeding region in the High Plains, it could be detrimental.
Drivers have two options after driving 11 hours, Hilker says. Either they park their rigs or they unload the cattle and then wait the required 10 hours before getting back on the road.
Unloading cattle at facilities midway along a long haul has the possibility to cross contaminate with other cattle. This poses a major health risk for the animals and a biosecurity risk to the food supply.
Another option would be to drive in shifts with an extra driver, but this would add additional costs and require more employees.
Exemptions to the Rules
Agriculture exemptions do exist in the MAP-21 mandate, but those exemptions don’t go far enough.
If an agriculture driver stays within 150 miles of the origin of their load, the hours of service rule does not apply. A driver can go outside of that 150-mile radius eight days out of a rolling 30-day period. Paper logs are still required under the exemption, and drivers will need to monitor distances traveled to stay in the 150-mile limit.
Covered farm vehicles (CFV) are also exempt when the vehicle is operated by the farm owner, a family member or an employee. Operating with the CFV exemption means there are no hours of service rules and the ELD is not required.
Leased vehicles can also be a CFV if the vehicle is for farm use. Transport with a CFV cannot be for hire. Farmers should look at the CFV rules for their state and register vehicles, if necessary.