The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied the application from a collection of farm organizations to grant an exemption from hours of service rules. The request was on behalf of drivers transporting live animals.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association and the National Aquaculture Association joined together to submit the exemption application.
The farm groups say HOS regulations place the well-being of livestock at risk during transport and cause a burden for livestock haulers – especially those in rural areas.
The exemption would allow drivers, after taking 10 consecutive hours off duty, to drive through the 16th consecutive hour after coming on duty, and to drive a total of 15 hours during that 16-hour period.
“If the agency were to grant the exemption, drivers transporting agricultural commodities would be allowed six or more hours of driving time within the 150 air-mile exempt zones for the transportation of agricultural commodities, in addition to the 15 hours of driving time outside the zone,” FMCSA explains in the Federal Register notice.
Opponents of the exemption say livestock haulers have been able to operate within the confines of HOS regulations for over 80 years. The FMCSA determined the extended driving time “would not likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the exemption.”
Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) expressed disappointment that the administration did not listen to the farmers and ranchers “who know what is best for their animals.”
“Hauling live animals presents unique challenges that the one-size-fits-all hours of service rule does not accommodate,” says Marshall. “Rejecting this request keeps a layer of bureaucracy and red tape on an industry that is already struggling to find workers and meet consumer demand.”