A bill introduced in the Senate would make it so livestock truckers could drive for up to 18...

A bill introduced in the Senate would make it so livestock truckers could drive for up to 18 hours in a 24-hour period.

The Trucking Alliance is urging every member of Congress to oppose passage of a bill proposed in the Senate that aims to rewrite the federal hours of service regulations for a very specific group of truck drivers: those hauling livestock or insects. Introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB), the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act (S.2938) would reform the HOS rules in such a way that livestock truckers could drive for up to 18 hours in a 24-hour period.

A June 11 letter co-signed by Lane Kidd, executive director of the Trucking Alliance, and Catherine Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, argues that S.2938 “proposes a clear end around” the electronic logging device rule for the subgroup of truck drivers. A copy of the letter has been delivered to all senators and members of the House.  

“Not only would the bill exempt thousands of truck drivers from using an ELD, but it would also arbitrarily increase the number of federal on-duty driving hours they can operate a vehicle,” the letter argues. “Moreover, the legislation would codify the increased hours into federal law without any scientific data to support it. For example, current federal regulations allow a truck driver to operate a vehicle a maximum of 11 hours. After 11 hours, the driver must take a 10-hour off-duty break. S.2938 would allow thousands of truck drivers to operate 80,000-pound tractor-trailers for as many as 24 hours straight.

“While ostensibly these increases are for agricultural haulers,” the authors continue, “the proposed changes to the hours’ limits would compel many similarly situated local and regional haulers to request comparable exemptions. This would have the effect of nullifying to a very significant degree the HOS limits the FMCSA has established for much of the industry.”

The Alliance and Advocates also contend that ever since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted “a well-researched and widely supported” ELD rule, “some segments of the trucking industry have been trying to avoid conformity. Their actions beg the question – why would trucking companies want to avoid installing a recording device to verify their compliance with the federal HOS law, unless the companies aren’t complying with the law?”

In addition, the letter states that S.2938 would “not require the truck driver to record anything about the number of hours s/he has been working, if s/he stays within a 300-air mile distance from the freight pick-up location. Such a proposal would allow a trucking company to force truck drivers back and forth, from pickup to delivery, for hours on end, to the point of complete exhaustion, endangering not only the truck driver’s health, but also the safety of the general public.”

The authors add that while they “acknowledge that livestock haulers are unique, in that they are delivering live cargo,” but they are “not the only carriers who haul time-sensitive commodities. Produce haulers, for example, use other legal means such as teams or relays to get their products to market safely and timely.

“Instead of exempting livestock haulers from this safety requirement, they should be encouraged to develop an answer to their logistics management issue,” they continue. “Regardless of commodities hauled, we should never sacrifice the safety of the general public sharing our highways or the truck drivers delivering them for the purpose of getting any product to market.”

Related: Spending Bill Stretches ELD Exemption for Livestock Haulers

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David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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