Double deck trailer ban moves forward

Feb 10, 2012

Agricultural industry groups are concerned that proposed legislation that bans double deck horse transportation will set a dangerous precedent for Congress to establish transportation rules for all livestock.

The senate bill would prohibit the transportation of all horses in double deck trailers, not just those bound for slaughter. The bill advanced out of committee last week and is now with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Last year, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service enacted a rule prohibiting use of double deck trailers to transport slaughter-bound horses, but the rule does not cover horses in transit for any other reason.

Nine groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), sent a letter in January to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure opposing the changes.

“As members of the agriculture industry, we strongly oppose language in the Highway Bill that prohibits the use of double deck trailers to transport horses. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation recently marked up The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011 (S. 1950). Included in S. 1950 is controversial language (Section 905) that severely limits our ability to transport horses and sets a dangerous precedent for the transportation of all livestock and other agricultural goods,” the letters says.

According to LMA, the proposed ban was introduced without any discussion with industry experts, and fails to address key components.

“Section 905 does not address genuine safety concerns; instead, it singles out one form of transportation without providing credible evidence as to how banning the use of double deck trailers will increase safety. Section 905 bans the use of double deck trailers for all horses based on accidents and information involved in the transport of slaughter horses, not performance horses in trucks with modifications made to safely transport these valuable animals. Again, the horses we transport are not being transported for slaughter. This language goes beyond existing USDA regulations aimed at transportation of horses for slaughter and applies this prohibition to transportation of ALL horses,” NCBA writes.

The bill, sponsored by Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk, would have a huge impact on rodeo rough stock transportation, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

“While Sen. Kirk was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, he stated he introduced this legislation after an accident in Wadsworth, IL, in October 2007 involving the overturning of a double deck trailer carrying 59 Belgian draft horses. According to accident reports, the driver ran a red light causing the accident. Several other accidents cited in background information supporting the ban were caused by driver error. Unfortunate accidents such as this remind those transporting livestock that continued education on transportation safety is vital. The welfare of the livestock we are transporting is our top priority and we must communicate this fact and not allow special interest groups to destroy our industries,” said Cindy Schonholtz with PRCA.

“Make no mistake, the welfare and safety of our animals is our top priority. We believe that existing government and industry standards, when followed correctly, provide a safe transportation environment for those who are hauling animals and others on the road.

We need responsible legislation that addresses actual safety concerns, not legislation that pushes the agendas of animal rights activist groups,” says NCBA. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor