Livestock truckers headed to D.C. over ELD regs | TSLN.com

Livestock truckers headed to D.C. over ELD regs

With electronic log book requirements, many livestock truckers are concerned about forced breaks that would require them to sometimes unload cattle for 10 hours, then re-load them to complete the haul. Photo by Traci Eatherton

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gave truck operators two years to start using an electronic logging device (ELD), and as of December 18 of this year, all operators, including livestock haulers, have to comply.

While the primary reasons for the FMCSA implementing the ELD mandate is to reduce the likelihood of drivers being able to alter or falsify their logs and to prevent motor carriers from requiring drivers to operate beyond their hours-of-service limits, the catch all mandate has cattle haulers hoping for an exemption.

"There was no thought given to the living, breathing commodities," said Steve Hilker, with Hilker Trucking, Inc, in Cimarron, KS. "There is no advantage [of the mandate] to livestock haulers."

The primary difference between the ELD and other recording devices, is the ELD syncs with a truck's engine and captures dates, times, locations, engine hours, vehicle miles, and driver data. The data is simply downloaded to a computer for compliance checks. Commercial truck drivers are already restricted to a limited number of working and driving hours under current regulations.

“Anything hauled over 500 miles is where it’s going to really affect us. We just don’t have the ability to unload for 10 hours. What happened is it’s a giant one- size-fits-all mandate. Nobody was at the table saying ‘What about the livestock hauler?’”Steve Wilker, Hilker Trucking, Inc. In Cimarron, Kan.

Hilker says it's not a problem for everyone, but those hauling livestock out of the northern states are going to have problems, without an exemption. Current rules include an 11-hour driving limit after a driver has been off-duty 10 hours and require 30-minute rest breaks every eight hours. A driver may not drive after 60-70 hours of consecutive duty in seven or eight days.

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"Anything hauled over 500 miles is where it's going to really affect us. We just don't have the ability to unload for 10 hours," Hilker points out. "What happened is it's a giant one size fits all mandate. Nobody was at the table saying 'What about the livestock hauler?'"

Headed to Washington in June, Hilker, and others from the livestock industry, will be sharing with lawmakers the flaws in the mandate. He is optimistic, with the new administration, and a precedence set by the oilfield exemptions, that livestock haulers may have alternative options.

Oil field exemptions allow drivers to break up the 10 hour downtime, to include loading, unloading, and other industry wait times.

"The waiting time exemption was created for a specific class of driver who would be at a well site for extended periods waiting for the opportunity to drive. Normally, a driver who is at the worksite would be considered "on duty" at the time they were at the worksite. This limited exemption to the on duty status recognizes the workplace realities of the commercial driver while working at an oil gas well site," writes HG.org, an online law and government information site.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has also taken a stance, filing an appeal against the ELD mandate. While the court ruled against the Association last year on its lawsuit against FMCSA, OOIDA maintains that ELDs are warrantless surveillance of truckers and a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.

Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA, said that the Association will also continue to pursue the issue on the congressional side as part of its "Knock Out Bad Regs" campaign.

"We were very disappointed and surprised by the ruling against us by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals," Johnston said. "That same court had ruled in our favor on a previous lawsuit of ours on this same issue." said Johnston.

OOIDA contends that requiring electronic monitoring devices on commercial vehicles does not advance safety since they are no more reliable than paper logbooks for recording compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

While safety is one of the main concerns, along with cleaner record keeping, some drivers believe that the new system actually creates more safety issues, as drivers may push speeds to get miles in in the 11 hours of drive time.

OOIDA also sent a letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, urging her to include the ELD mandate in the Trump administration's push to cut federal regulations. OOIDA pegs the estimated cost of implementation at $2 billion, industry-wide. Speed limiter mandates were also mentioned in the letter.

"Of all the regulations your department will consider repealing…none will have a greater positive impact on American businesses than these two costly and burdensome rules. We encourage you to prioritize the ELD mandate and proposed speed limiter rule when identifying regulations for elimination."

But not all trucking companies think alike. Trucking Alliance sent Chao a letter, asking her to keep the mandate as is, with the December 18 deadline, arguing for its safety and economic benefits that exceed costs to carriers.

The Trucking Alliance includes a small coalition of carriers, Maverick USA, Knight, Swift, U.S. Xpress, J.B. Hunt and others. Its core lobbying agenda includes pushing for an ELD mandate, drug testing via hair sample, a speed limiter mandate and an increase in the minimum amount of liability insurance required of motor carriers.

Hilker says the American Trucking Association (ATA), a strong supporter for the mandate, is not putting up a fight against livestock haulers asking for an exemption. ATA realizes that the livestock haulers were overlooked in the "one size fits all mandate."

Despite Republicans' fight on federal regulations, ATA and other ELD supporters believe the mandate is here to stay, which makes it that much more imperative that livestock haulers get involved and contact their representative for an exemption, Hilker shared.

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