The Montana Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau and 60 other ag organizations are asking the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and Department of Transportation for more flexibility for livestock haulers due to the nature and length of livestock hauling trips. In addition, six groups including the American Farm Bureau sent a petition explaining why a requested exemption of the current Hours of Service Rules for livestock haulers is necessary and appropriate.
“These trips are dictated by immutable factors like climate and weather, or by long-established and highly interdependent livestock production chains that have been in place for generations,” the petition noted. “In the cattle industry, for example, the locations of cow-calf operations, grazing lands, feedlots, and processing facilities necessarily determine how far a livestock hauler must travel in a single trip. Livestock haulers transport animals from farms and ranches to auction markets, where the stock are sold. Once sold, the animals are often transported to grazing lands and feed yards, mostly located in the Central Plains and Southwest. After grazing and feeding, livestock are transported a final time to processing facilities, where they are transformed into consumable meat and sold across the United States and around the world.”
The petition went on to note, “While the majority of these hauls can be concluded within the time frames of the current HOS rules, we estimate that 25 to 30 percent of livestock hauling trips would be conducted under the requested exemption. Any segment of the trips described above –in any region of the country – could be a longer run for which a livestock hauler would utilize the requested exemption.”
The Montana Farm Bureau, along with 60 other ag groups, sent comments to the FMCSA and DOT providing more information why an exemption on the new Hours of Service rule is needed for livestock. “The key to safely hauling animals, especially in times of great heat and humidity, is to stop as infrequently as possible and keep the truck moving to provide ventilation,” the comments said.
“Although some livestock located near feedlots and processing plants will fall within the regulations, the livestock being shipped outside of those states will not make the time-frame and will be required to stop and either unload the animals or leave them on the trailer for 10-hours.”
They noted that if the animals needed to be unloaded, there were strong concerns about bio-security, locating facilities and the stress on the livestock of unloading/loading them repeatedly.
Rip Berg who trucks out of Deer Lodge explains that truckers used to have 10 hours off with eight hours of sleep in 24 hours. “That provided you with flexibility,” he says. “The way the rules are now, you have to have 11 of hours of driving in 14 hours. If you’re tired and you want to take a nap, that cuts into your driving time. The rules now punish you for doing the right thing.”
He adds that every driver is different and that cow haulers are a special breed. “We know when we’re tired. When we get the cattle to their destination, we rest up. Our goal is to get the cattle to where they are going safely and efficiently. We need the flexibility that allows for that.”