Edit, February 28, 2018: Farm Bureau Calls for Clarity on Exemption
The topic of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) has been plaguing the livestock and trucking industries since 2015.  The issue garnered even more attention this fall as the Department of Transportation moved closer to implementing the rule.  The rule went into effect on December 18th; however, commercial trucks hauling livestock and other ag commodities received a 90-day waiver from the rule.  The waiver came on the heels of a petition submitted to the Department of Transportation by the American Farm Bureau and several other agriculture organizations.
AFBF is seeking an exemption of up to five years from the rule.  There remain a lot of issues regarding the rule before any type of mandate takes effect; of large concern is the simple fact that you can’t simply leave livestock (or other perishable ag commodities) on a trailer if a driver runs out of hours.

Park County Farm Bureau member and rancher Nick Jerke owns a trucking company and realizes the regulatory burden this rule will put on commercial truckers, as well as ranchers, "[Electronic Logging Devices are] going to affect everybody in this industry. Transportation of the livestock is just a part of the industry, and for us to be able to do our jobs correctly, I think the Federal Motor Carrier is in the wrong."

Nick attended the MFBF Convention in Billings this past November for the first time.  He had the opportunity to voice his opinion and share his expertise with other attendees.  The culmination of the ELD discussion held at convention was the passage of a new policy opposing electronic logging devices on trucks hauling livestock or other perishable agricultural products.  Here more about Nick’s convention experience on the MFBF YouTube Channel.

Is there still potential of stopping the rule?
At this point, no.  The rule is currently effective for all commercial haulers except the specific types of livestock and ag commodity haulers which were exempted by the waiver.
In the Summer of 2017, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have delayed implementation of any part of the rule for an entire year.  The Senate planned to add a rider on to the year-end Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2018.  Similar to the House legislation, the rider will block implementation of the ELD rule for one year for livestock haulers.  We had hoped the Senate would take up the discussion in early December.  While that didn’t happen, there is still time for the Senate to get this done in the New Year. With the granting of the 90-day waiver in late November, the Department of Transportation provided the ag industry with more time to discuss this topic and we plan to make the most of it.
Bottom line, the rule won’t disappear anytime soon.  Agriculture and livestock haulers have, at minimum, 90 days to continue to work with the DOT and other stakeholders.  At most, and contingent upon the Senate passing a rider to the Appropriations bill, we will have one year to continue hashing things out.
Will ELDs and Agriculture Learn to Become Friends?
That remains to be seen.  What we do know, is that Farm Bureau is continuing to closely watch this conversation and participate in any and all opportunities for stakeholder input.  If you’re interested in learning more about who must comply with the rule and what exactly the waiver means we have some additional resources available here.
In the meantime, it’s important to continue talking to Senator Daines, Senator Tester, Representative Gianforte and the DOT about how and why the ELD rule doesn’t work for agriculture Montana.
Going beyond that, we need to start thinking of ways to fix the Hours of Service Rule, which is the real fly in the ointment here. We’re not sure what that ‘fix’ looks like at this point; but some examples might include:
  • Stipulations that a trucker sitting in his truck waiting to load should not have to count that wait time against his Hours of Service. 
  • Change the rule to allow livestock haulers to have a certain number of long trips each month, provided they are separated by a certain number of days.

Another key issue is that you can’t lump all types of commercial trucking together; a van hauling paper products and a bull-rack with live cargo shouldn’t be forced into the same category.  Nick Jerke told the Billings Gazette this in a December 1, 2017 article.

It’s really important that we hear your input and feedback so we can work strategically to protect agriculture in this discussion.  Lastly, we need to continue to protect the current ag exemption of 150 air mile radius. It’s not part of any of these rule changes or discussions currently, but it is critically important to farmers and ranchers who own their own semi and trailer to haul livestock or harvest crops.

We have 90 days to impact how this rule will affect us; don’t let them slip away.  If you have ideas or want more information, please contact MFBF Director of National Affairs, Nicole Rolf at nicoler@mfbf.org or 406-587-3153.