By USCA’s Washington, DC Team:

 

Livestock haulers represent a small segment of the trucking industry, but will be among the most affected by the upcoming Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate, a federal regulation that will wreak havoc on small business owners across the country. On December 18, 2017, all motor carriers model year 2000 and newer will require each of its drivers to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to record the driver’s hours-of-service (HOS).The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) and its nationwide membership of cow-calf producers, backgrounders, feedlot operators and livestock haulers are responsible for the daily transportation of millions of animals.

The welfare and the safety of their cargo is of the utmost importance to livestock transporters; it is their job to ensure that the animals arrive to their destination in the best condition possible. This responsibility requires additional hours of training and expertise, provided by industry programs such as the Master Cattle Transporter program and the National Pork Board’s Transport Quality Assurance program. Both courses offer specific suggestions on keeping animals comfortable on long trips, including temperature considerations and the appropriate length of time that animals should be on the trailer. Livestock haulers must take into consideration the welfare of their cargo which means avoiding rough-road conditions, slowing down, and being more aware of their surroundings to prevent animal injury.

Research from Kansas State University suggests that animal transport should be limited to a maximum of 15-25 hours. Further, the study found that mortality rates double for cattle after 30 hours of standing on the truck. In more recent research, Temple Grandin (2014) found that the animals start showing signs of fatigue after 15 hours of transport. There is no infrastructure currently available to off-load cattle in the event that a driver were to ‘run out of hours’. In this case, the driver would be forced to pull off to the side of the road and wait the mandatory 10-hours before being able to begin the trip again. This heightens welfare concerns, as animals are likely to lay down after 24 hours of transport, regardless of increased chance of bodily harm in the trailer (Knowles et al., 1999).

Even if ‘off-loading stations’ were built to address this concern, unloading cattle in unfamiliar spaces would not only allow for co-mingling of the cattle between lots but also increase the risk of the animals contracting airborne diseases. In the event of an epidemic disease outbreak, it would then become nearly impossible to track the origin of that outbreak and thus provide relief for the industry. The current ELD marketplace does not clearly support the needs of our members. Manufacturers are unable to confirm if their devices can accommodate the HOS exemptions currently utilized by the livestock industry.

The lack of understanding on what these devices are capable of only exposes the confusion that exists in the implementation of this mandate. There are also still concerns with the education of enforcement officers, who are tasked with the enforcement of this regulation. If neither the enforcing officers, livestock transporters or manufacturers are properly educated and made aware of the demands of the mandate and its scope within the agriculture industry, how will this play out in the field?

Currently, all transporters of agricultural commodities are on a 90-day waiver from the requirements of the mandate. This was given due to FMCSA’s desire to further evaluate how the mandate will affect the industry’s ability to safely and efficiently deliver agricultural goods. We encourage FMCSA to continue working with industry in a manner that advances both public safety and addresses the safety and welfare of our live cargo, while considering the significant harm the rule will cause to the livestock industry. The livestock and insect industries would like to see a delay of the ELD mandate to be able to effectively work on the Hours of Service rules to meet the real world demands and economic expectations of hauling live animals. Livestock industries, including USCA, are working on a long-term solution to this issue while also taking into account new FMCSA guidance on current flexibilities.

We urge Congress to not abandon America’s small businesses and continue advocating for regulatory changes that will provide relief for the industry. The ELD mandate does not provide any additional levels of safety and will adversely impact not just livestock haulers, but many other transporters of perishable or cyclical products. This burdensome regulation does not carry out its intended purpose and instead only harms small business owners, consumers, and rural America. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact USCA’s Washington, D.C. office at (202) 870-1552.

Schuetze, S., Scwandt, E., & Thompson, D. (n.d.). Recommendations for cattle transport duration in the U.S. (Rep.). Kansas State University.
Grandin, T. (Ed.). (2014). Livestock Handling and Transport: Theories and Applications. Cabi.
Knowles, T. G., Warriss, P. D., Brown, S. N., & Edwards, J. E. (1999). Effects on cattle of transportation by road for up to 31 hours. The Veterinary Record, 145(20), 575-582.