Livestock haulers seek exemption from 30 min. rule
As the result of a lawsuit in 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tweaked their regulations for over-the-road truckers, requiring more downtime during and after work periods. The FMCSA resides under the Department of Transportation (DOT).
According to Jon Samson, Executive Director, Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference, American Trucking Associations, Inc., those changes were implemented July 1 of this year. One of the rule changes, a mandatory 30 minute break during the first eight hours of on-duty time, was disconcerting to truck drivers hauling livestock, Samson said. “On-duty time includes any time working in or around the truck, so this can include loading and unloading cattle for instance.”
Samson said the 30 minute break requirement could be detrimental to the livestock being hauled, especially in the summer months. If a truck driver has to stop in the middle of a long haul on a hot day and sit alongside the road for a half hour, livestock can overheat. According to Samson, a unified group of livestock representatives speaking on behalf of cattle, hog, chicken, sheep organizations along with veterinarians and others wrote a joint letter to the FMCSA in June asking for a 90 day waiver from the rule, knowing it would take effect on the first of July. “A waiver, as opposed to an exemption, is more immediate and can be issued without public comment,” Samson explained. He said the organizations signing the letter, led by the National Pork Producers also included: Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference of the American Trucking Associations, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, Livestock Marketing Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
The waiver was granted and will be in effect only until Oct. 9, Samson said, so a more permanent form of relief is needed for livestock haulers.
Samson said that on Monday, Aug. 12, the Federal Register published the notice requesting comments on a permanent exemption.
“The comment period will close on September 11, giving FMCSA nearly one month to make a determination before the expiration of the 90 day waiver,” he pointed out, hoping the exemption is granted on or before Oct. 9, when the waiver runs out.
The Federal Register published the following details from the joint letter they received:
“The NPPC stated that complying with the 30-minute rest break rule will cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, place the health and welfare of the livestock at risk, and provide no apparent benefit to public safety, while forcing the livestock industry and their drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or compliance with the rule. The NPPC explained that the process of transporting livestock, whether to slaughter, for transfer of ownership, or for purposes of breeding or simply finding forage for feed, is a significant concern to the agricultural industry. The animals face a variety of stresses including temperature, humidity, and weather conditions. During the summer months, exposure to heat is one of the greatest concerns in maintaining the animals’ well-being. This is especially challenging for the transportation of pigs because these animals do not sweat and are subject to heat stress. When heat stress occurs, a pig’s body temperature rises to a level that it cannot control through its normal panting mechanisms. Under the industry’s guidelines, drivers are directed to avoid stopping in temperatures greater than 80 degrees. Drivers are advised to stop only when animals will be immediately unloaded or when safety becomes an issue. If the vehicle must be stopped, drivers are required to stay with the animals and provide them with water to help keep them cool.
“When temperature and humidity result in a heat index equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, cattle also are placed at significant health risk. When cattle are stressed under extreme heat conditions, they are more likely to become non-ambulatory, sick, and even die. Non-ambulatory cattle are banned from entering the food system. Current industry guidelines recommend that drivers avoid stopping as internal trailer temperatures will then increase rapidly because of the loss of airflow through the trailer and heat production from the animals. During the winter months, exposure of the animals to cold is also a serious concern in maintaining the animals’ well-being. Extremely low temperatures combined with wind can result in dangerous wind-chills. These can be especially harmful to pigs, but are also risk factors for the transportation of other livestock.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association lobbyist Jess Peterson said the organization backs the efforts to exempt livestock haulers from the “30 minute” rule. “USCA supports the coalition’s effort here. The livestock hauler exemption is a common sense solution that needs to be implemented,” he said.
Comments on the proposed permanent exemption for livestock haulers will be accepted until Sept. 11, 2013.
According to the Federal Register notice, go to http://www.regulations.gov to submit comments. For more detailed instructions, go to the notice at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-08-12/pdf/2013-19387.pdf.
Another rule change that could affect the production agriculture sector, Sampson said, is the requirement of a second 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. rest period during a 34 hour “time off” period already required each week. He said one of the early morning rest periods is already expected of truckers, but new rules call for two of them consecutively. No exemptions are currently being sought by ag groups, according to Samson.