While the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) 90-day electronic logging device (ELD) waiver for agriculture truckers expires June 18, one group has already been granted an extension until fall. When President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill in March 2018, it also passed an extension on the ELD implementation for livestock haulers. The bill, passed on March 23, included a mandate for livestock and insect haulers to have an exemption through September 30, 2018.
However, drivers hauling non-livestock ag commodities, such as produce, feed and fertilizer, must begin using an ELD by June 19, the date that enforcers will begin issuing citations and out-of-service orders for non-compliance, according to the FMCSA. Drivers who haul agricultural commodities within a "150-air mile radius of the farmer's farm or ranch," are exempt from hours of service regulations, meaning they will not have to adopt an ELD before the June 19 enforcement date. Only drivers required to keep records of driving status will need to comply with the ELD mandate.
For Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions updated through May 31, 2018, go here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/…
On May 22, 2018, Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jon Tester (D), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tina Smith (D-MN), Pat Roberts (R-Ks), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act (TLAAS). This bill seeks to ease the burden of "far-reaching" Hours-of-Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) regulations for haulers of livestock and insects.
United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker issued the following statement about the bill: "We asked, and Congress answered. This is a historic moment for livestock and insect haulers to finally be afforded needed flexibility in the restrictive Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. We commend this bipartisan group of Senators, led by Sen. Sasse, for working with the industry towards a common-sense solution."
USCA provided the following "fast facts" of the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act:
-- Providing that HOS and ELD requirements are inapplicable until after a driver travels more than 300-air miles from their source. Drive time for HOS purposes does not start until after the 300-air mile threshold.
-- Exempts loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.
-- Extends the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time.
-- Grants flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.
-- Allows drivers to complete their trip -- regardless of HOS requirements -- if they come within 150-air miles of their delivery point.
-- After the driver completes his delivery and the truck is unloaded, the driver will take a break for a period that is five hours less than the maximum on-duty time (10 hours if a 15-hour drive time).
It is important to note that the ELD and HOS actually intertwine, and thus are mentioned together when the ELD exemption is requested. Basically the ELD mandate requires all commercial drivers who prepare HOS records to connect an ELD to a vehicle's engine to record driving hours. Once the time expires, the ELD doesn't shut the truck down, but it alerts the driver that they are violating the rule if they continue to drive. Hilker pointed out on the USCA website that under the current HOS rules, livestock haulers are allocated 11 hours of drive time and 14 hours of on-duty time.
"Once they've hit their hours, the ELD will force drivers off the road to take their mandatory 10-hour break. This leaves cattle potentially stranded roadside on the truck. The list of poor outcomes begins to grow exponentially, almost immediately," said Hilker. "Not to mention, the financial hit the driver will take as precious time ticks away will push small and mid-sized trucking companies immediately out of business. It will also put more pressure on an already very thinly populated driver pool."
Opponents of the bill, like the American Trucking Associations (ATA), cautions that the "lives of livestock should not be a priority over the lives of people."
Bill Sullivan, leader of advocacy for ATA, advised against the legislation. On May 31, he told Transport Topics, the nation's logistics and trucking news leader, that such a law would be dangerous for truck drivers and all motorists. "This bill would allow truck drivers to stay behind the wheel for almost twice as long as they're permitted under the current hours-of-service rules," Sullivan said. "It needlessly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of people who travel our highways. We should not prioritize livestock over people's lives, and ATA urges Congress to reject this misguided legislation."
As for small businesses, legislation was recently introduced to exempt them and all agriculture sectors. In a press release on May 23, 2018, Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte said that he and Representative Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have introduced two pieces of bipartisan legislation to relieve certain sectors of the trucking industry from the Federal Motor Carrier Association's ELD mandate.
The Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018 will completely exempt businesses that operate 10 or fewer trucks from the requirements of the ELD mandate. The Agricultural Business Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018 will completely exempt agricultural businesses.
"This legislation will eliminate costly and time-consuming regulations for small trucking companies and individual owner-operators, which constitute much of the rural trucking industry." Peterson said. "In addition, it will help reduce unnecessary stops and delays which threaten the quality of agricultural products on their way to market."
Both the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the Small Business Transportation Coalition have endorsed the Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018. However, the Trucking Alliance has opposed the latest proposed legislation, saying that the bill is unlikely to become law and sends a false message about the purpose of ELDs.
There are many groups fighting for the use of ELD and many others fighting against it. Since its "official" implementation on Dec. 18, 2017, there have been exemptions granted and even a delay in "hard enforcement" of the mandate to April 1, 2018.
It appears the fight is not over, but in the meantime, unless something changes for Ag haulers, their exemption will soon run out.
The most recent FMCSA guidance changes on the "150-air-mile-radius" Ag hours of service exemption, and personal conveyance related to finding a parking spot, can be found at the following links:
Mary Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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