Transportation Trucking Federal agencies Legislation Hours of service

Lawmakers reintroduce bill to reform HOS, ELD rules for livestock, insect and agricultural haulers

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Photo: Casarsa/iStockphoto

Washington — Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would require the secretary of transportation to create a working group to determine obstacles to safe operation for livestock, insect and agricultural haulers in an effort to reform federal hours-of-service and electronic logging device regulations.

Introduced Feb. 28, the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act (S. 600) would establish a group comprising representatives from the Department of Agriculture and those with expertise in the fields of highway safety; commercial motor vehicle transportation; animal husbandry; and livestock, insect and agricultural transportation.

Once formed, the group would – within one year – submit to the secretary a report outlining its findings as well as potential regulatory and legislative changes the group “identifies as necessary to protect the safety of highways and allow for the safe, efficient and productive marketplace transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities.”

The secretary – within 120 days of receiving the report – would be called on to use the findings to propose regulatory changes involving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s HOS regulations and ELD mandate. The bill would postpone enforcement of the ELD rule for livestock, insect and agricultural haulers until the secretary proposes the reforms. Currently, the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2019 exempts livestock and insect haulers from ELD compliance until Sept. 30.

“Livestock haulers need a permanent solution to the HOS and ELD rules that provides flexibility while also ensuring road safety and the humane transportation of animals,” Hoeven said in a Feb. 28 press release.

Various challenges to both rules have surfaced over the years, with many opponents citing concerns over animal or driver welfare. FMCSA HOS regulations state that CMV drivers can spend 11 hours behind the wheel during a 14-hour period, and must take a break after eight hours of driving. A joint petition filed Oct. 15 by six organizations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, requests that FMCSA amend HOS requirements for haulers of livestock, insects and aquatic animals. The petition seeks to permit up to 15 hours of driving during a 16-hour on-duty period after 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.

ELDs record vehicle information – including date; time; location; engine hours; vehicle miles; and identification information for the driver, vehicle and motor carrier – at frequent intervals. FMCSA published its ELD final rule in December 2015. The mandate took effect on Dec. 18, 2017, and an enforcement grace period expired on March 31, 2018.

According to an FMCSA report issued in January, less than 1 percent of the nearly 2.8 million driver inspections the agency has completed since April 1, 2018, included citations for operating without a required ELD or grandfathered automatic on-board recording device.

 

Numerous industry groups have expressed support for the Hoeven-Bennet bill.

“The Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act is a commonsense move that will help ease the burden of far-reaching hours-of-service and electronic logging device regulations,” Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Dale McCall said in the release. “This bipartisan legislation should finally give the agricultural trucking industry some certainty after all these years.”

The Senate considered similar legislation – also introduced by Hoeven and Bennet and called the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act – this past June.

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