Boise— Truckers hauling livestock have received a 90-day waiver from the Federal Government's new Electronic Logging Device rule.
But the trucking industry is hoping for a long-term solution to the problem.
The rule went into effect on Dec. 18 for most operators, but the U.S. Department of Transportation delayed the regulation for trucks transporting livestock until mid-March.
The new regulations require certain drivers to install ELDs on their trucks. Also included are hours of service restrictions on truckers, limiting them to 11 hours of driving daily, after 10 hours off duty. Plus, the ELD rules restrict truckers drive time to 14 consecutive hours and that includes non-driving time.
Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle says livestock producers have concerns about the ELD regulations.
"If a trucker hauling livestock runs out of hours, they could be parked along the side of the road with a load of livestock," he says. "That's just won’t work, it’s not right for the trucker or livestock.”
Because of that, farm groups across the nation say the ELD Rule does not work for truckers hauling livestock and it’s dangerous for animals.
“We think Transportation needs to take a closer look at ELD requirements, it's just a matter of time before we lose cattle, or a horse because of a stopped truck or an ELD glitch,” said Idaho Humane Society of the US, Idaho Executive Director Lisa Kauffman.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association agrees the mandate is a huge problem for cattle producers.
"We have a living, breathing animal in the back of these trucks. They can't stop for eight hours on the side of the road,” said Colin Woodall with the NCBA.
The other issue says Idaho livestock producer Luke Pearce is that the logs are running while truckers are waiting to load and unload and even if they stop for lunch.
"If they stop at a truck stop to get fuel or whatever, that meter keeps running wherever they're at," he says. “If any trucker goes over those driving limits, they’re fined. Worse yet if he’s been driving for 9 hours and just a few minutes away from his destination, he has to shut down for 10 hours. Where are they going to get feed and water to the livestock? This isn’t going to work,” said Pearce.
Another possible problem of the ELD mandate that livestock needs to be unloaded while truckers rest. That means the co-mingling of livestock and that's an animal health issue.
“They don’t have feedlots at rest stops, and even if they did, if you have spirited horses or tired cattle it's going to be impossible to reload them and then there’s the disease problem," Pearce says.
The ELD rule will hurt truckers, but Pearce says it could be tough on small operators without clarification of new rules.
“They’re now looking at one-ton trucks with goose-neck trailers, can you imagine hauling a couple head of cattle to market or taking a kid to a horse show? We’re going to need a commercial drivers license and expensive ELD equipment our pickups. It’s crazy but it’ll affect 4H groups, rodeos and county fairs and we don't always have the political power behind us to get help at the Statehouse or in Congress, I’m telling you, this is a big issue," adds Pearce.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act was enacted as part of the '2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act'. It mandated that ELDs be installed by Dec. 18, 2017. That applied to commercial motor vehicles invoiced in interstate commerce when operated by drivers who are required to keep records of duty status. The ELD's can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000, and they record driving time, monitor engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, the miles driven and location information.
The DOT has back-pedaled and just issued a new interpretation to address concerns in its hours-of-service rules. They're now exempting any distance-logging requirement for truckers hauling livestock within a 150 air-mile radius of the place where animals were loaded. But still no word on the one-ton pickup requirement.
The new waiver will give the department time to consider the request of farm groups that truck hogs, cattle, and other livestock now exempt from December’s ELDs mandate.
But farm groups say there is still an incompatibility between transporting livestock and DOT's hours of service rules.
"We're working to find some exemptions to hours of service or some other waiver that allows us to get cattle to market," Woodall says. "So far, we have not found that but we are working several angles to figure out what we can do to show that a truckload of cattle is not the same as a truckload of toilet paper, and they need to make sure that we can get those animals to market in good health.”
"We need to come up with ways to get around some of these ELD rules and make sure that livestock is cared for properly," Pearce adds.