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Agriculture Today

Truckers receive 90-day waiver for livestock hauling

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July 24, 2013 | 4,457 views | Post a comment

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will allow for a limited 90-day waiver from the 30-minute rest break provision of the Federal hours-of-service regulations for the transportation of livestock, according to the Department of Transportation website. The wavier went into effect July 11 and expires Oct. 9.

This waiver was requested due to a 2011, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule that went into effect July 1, amending its hours-of-service regulations for drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles. The final rule included several changes to the hours-of-service regulations including a new provision requiring drivers to take a rest break during the workday under certain circumstances. Drivers may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.

Waiver request

Several associations representing various segments of the livestock industry raised concerns about the risks to the health of animals from rising temperatures inside livestock trucks during drivers’ mandatory 30-minute break, especially in light of long-range weather forecasts for above-normal temperatures for July, August, and September 2013.

The Pork Council requested the waiver on behalf of several organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The Pork Council stated that complying with the 30-minute rest break rule will cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, place the health and welfare of the livestock at risk, and provide no apparent benefit to public safety, while forcing the livestock industry and their drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or compliance with the rule.

Heat stress

The Pork Council explained that the process of transporting livestock, whether to slaughter, transfer of ownership, or for purposes of breeding or simply finding forage for feed, is a significant concern to the agricultural industry. The animals face a variety of stresses including temperature, humidity, and weather conditions.

During the summer months, exposure to heat is one of the greatest concerns in maintaining the animals’ well-being. This is especially challenging for the transportation of pigs because these animals do not sweat and are subject to heat stress.

When heat stress occurs, a pig’s body temperature rises to a level that it cannot control through its normal panting mechanisms. Under the industry’s guidelines, drivers are directed to avoid stopping in temperatures greater than 80 degrees. Drivers are advised to stop only when animals will be immediately unloaded or when safety becomes an issue. If the vehicle must be stopped, drivers are required to stay with the animals and provide them with water to help keep them cool.

When temperature and humidity result in a heat index greater than or equal to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, cattle are also placed at significant health risk. When cattle are stressed under extreme heat conditions, they are more likely to become non-ambulatory, sick, and even die.

Non-ambulatory cattle are banned from entering the food system. Current industry guidelines recommend that drivers avoid stopping as internal trailer temperatures will then increase rapidly because of the loss of airflow through the trailer and heat production from the animals.

Long-range weather forecasts

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administra-tion reviewed information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service. The Weather Service forecasts for the western half of the United States for July, August and September predict above normal temperatures. Above normal temperatures are also forecast for the northeastern part of the nation as well as the southern half of Florida. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration believes the weather forecasts increase the need to protect livestock during transportation this summer.

Number of drivers

As of July 3, The Motor Carrier Management Information System lists 64,892 motor carriers that identified livestock as a type -- though not necessarily the only type -- of cargo they transported. These carriers operate 187,606 vehicles and employ 242,676 drivers; and 126,471 of these drivers operate within a 100 air-mile radius of their work-reporting location. This fact is important because existing statutory exemptions provide relief from the hours-of-service requirements for these drivers.

A final rule published in the March 14, 2013 Federal Register, extended the 100 air-mile radius previously in effect to 150 air miles. Therefore, the waiver would not be applicable to them, leaving fewer than 116,205 drivers likely to utilize this relief from the 30-minute rest break provision.

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