Livestock industry allowed some leniency on new DOT rules

Jul 15, 2013

In a major victory for America’s livestock producers, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has indicated that it will grant a 90-day waiver of a new hours-ofservice rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry.

Effective July 1, the rule from DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break for every eight consecutive hours of service. For drivers hauling livestock, the hours of service would include time loading and unloading of animals.

In a June 19 letter, 14 livestock, poultry and food organizations petitioned FMCSA for the 90-day waiver and exemption from complying with the new rule. The groups said the regulation would “cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, will place the health and welfare of the livestock in their care at risk and will provide no apparent increased benefit to public safety (and will likely decrease public safety) while forcing the livestock industry and [its] drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or complying with a FMC- SA regulation requiring a 30-minute rest break.”

The organizations also pointed out that the livestock and poultry industries have programs— developed and offered through USDA— that educate drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare.

“This decision will help ensure the continued humane treatment and welfare of livestock while traveling on the nation’s highways,” said National Pork Producers Council President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, MN. “By granting the 90-day waiver, the FMCSA will ensure that during hot summer months livestock won’t be sitting in the sun for extended periods, with drivers unable to care for them because they’re required to take a 30-minute break.”

Official notice of the decision is expected to be published in the Federal Register within the week. Additionally, the agency indicated it will develop a permanent exemption from the rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry.

“America’s livestock and poultry farmers are pleased that the FMCSA recognized that its rule would not be practicable for drivers who transport hogs, cattle and poultry,” Spronk said. “We’re also grateful for FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro’s recognition of the ongoing commitment of America’s pork, livestock and poultry producers to animal welfare and highway safety and for the assistance of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in helping ensure the concerns of America’s farmers were heard.”

FMCSA new federal regulations designed to improve safety for the motoring public by reducing truck driver fatigue took full effect July 1, 2013.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These rules make commonsense, datadriven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.”

Trucking companies were provided 18 months to adopt the new hours-ofservice rules for truck drivers. First announced in December 2011 by FMC- SA, the rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest.

Only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, and more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce will see no changes, according to the organization.

Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers, FMCSA said in a press release. They are estimating that these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

“These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach,” said Ferro. “The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives.”

FMCSA’s new hours-ofservice final rule:

Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours; Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most, from 1-5 a.m.; and Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor