Thanks to a loophole in federal law, livestock haulers can transport animals extended distances without stopping, but ag groups say the rules are still not favorable enough.
Since February 2016, the federal Transportation Department has required truckers to use electronic logging devices — units synchronized with the vehicles’ engines — to track their driving and rest hours.
But livestock haulers are loath to take breaks because air flow is key to animals’ well-being during transport.
Even if there’s a place to pull off, unloading and reloading the animals is time-consuming for the driver, risky for biosecurity and stressful for the animals.
Current rules limit driving time to 11 hours and on-duty hours to 14. After hitting those thresholds, the driver has to stop for 10 straight hours — a major problem when transporting live animals.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other groups want ag haulers to get up to 15 hours of driving time with a 16-hour on-duty period before hitting that 10-hour rest period.
Any livestock hauler who wants to operate under the extended drive time would have to complete pre-trip planning and fatigue-management training.
“At the end of the day you have to have a safe vehicle, and you need to be operating in a safe manner,” said Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Walmsley spoke in a Dec. 20 webinar hosted by Farm Credit East.
Drivers transporting livestock and commercial bees already don’t have to take the 30-minute breaks required in the hours of service regulation.
The Farm Bill defined alpacas, llamas, live fish and crawfish as livestock, allowing drivers of those animals to be exempted as well.
The exemption isn’t permanent, but it’s not affected by the partial government shutdown, Walmsley said.
Drivers do not need documentation to prove their eligibility.
The exemption only applies to farmers hauling commodities they either produced themselves or through a crop share.
It doesn’t apply to farmers transporting goods for others, said Clay Eppard, principal consultant of Fleet Safety Services in Worcester, Massachusetts.
It also doesn’t apply when farmers travel beyond a 150 air-mile radius of their farm.
If they go that far, drivers need to fill out a daily driver log, including their start and stop times, and total hours on duty, Eppard said.
Vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more are subject to the electronic logging device rules, but some states — including Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware — have higher weight limits for in-state trips, he said.