The National Pork Producers Council hailed the introduction by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., of legislation to revise existing trucking regulations to make them more flexible for drivers hauling livestock.
The “Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act” would establish a working group at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to examine the federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules and the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations. The HOS rules limit commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again. ELDs record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, miles driven and location information, electronically reporting the data to federal and state inspectors to help enforce the HOS rules.
“NPPC strongly supports the Hoeven-Bennet bill as a reasonable solution for developing Hours of Service regulations that protect highway safety while allowing livestock haulers to transport animals in a safe and humane way,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, whose operation also includes a trucking company.
The legislation would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish the working group within 120 days of enactment of the bill. The group would be charged with identifying obstacles to the “safe, humane, and market-efficient transport of livestock, insects, and other perishable agricultural commodities” and developing guidelines and recommending regulatory or legislative action to improve the transportation of those commodities. One year after it is established, the group must submit its findings to the DOT secretary, who must propose regulatory changes to the HOS and ELD regulations within 120 days.
“Pulling together all stakeholders with an interest in livestock hauling will ensure that DOT has the tools necessary to ensure Hours of Service regulations address the realities of transporting animals in a practical, common sense manner,” Heimerl said. “As we’ve pointed out, a trucker hauling livestock can’t just pull over and go ‘off-duty,’ leaving animals unattended. The incompatibility between the Hours of Service regulations and livestock hauling must be addressed.”
The bill also would suspend the ELD regulation for commercial motor vehicles hauling livestock, insects or perishable agricultural commodities until the date on which the DOT secretary proposes the regulatory changes.