Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has introduced the legislation.
According to Sasse, trucking regulations from the Department of Transportation require mandatory rest time that put livestock at risk, especially during summer or winter months. Sasse said his legislation would give the livestock industry flexibility to transport livestock safely.
"Our ranchers and haulers are professionals who make the well-being of livestock their top priority and that includes safe transportation," Sasse said. "The Department of Transportation's current regulations endangers livestock during hot summers and cold winters — which Nebraskans know well — causing significant stress on the animals and concern for the drivers."
According to Sasse, on Dec. 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration required commercial vehicle drivers to install an electronic logging device (ELD) in their truck to track compliance with hours of service (HOS) rules. FMCSA exempted livestock haulers from this requirement until March 18, and a congressional delay has extended it through Sept. 30, 2018.
Currently for livestock and insects, Sasse said, HOS rules require that haulers turn on their ELD after they cross a 150-air-mile radius of the origin of their load (such as cattle). After crossing a 150-air-mile radius, haulers must start tracking their on-duty time and can only drive 11 hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour rest time.
Sasse said the inflexibility of these regulations is costly for haulers and place the well-being and welfare of insects, cattle, hogs and other livestock at risk. He said current law does not allow flexibility for livestock and insects to reach their destination given the vast geography of production and processing facilities, most often spanning from coastal states to the Midwest.
Extended stops for a hauler are especially dangerous for livestock during summer or winter months; high humidity and winter temperatures with below-freezing wind chills cause significant stress on livestock, Sasse said.
The Sasse legislation:
n Provides 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 300-air-mile threshold.
n Exempts loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.
n 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.
n Grants flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.
n Allows drivers to complete their trip — regardless of HOS requirements — if they come within 150 air miles of their delivery point.
n Mandates that after the driver completes the delivery and the truck is unloaded, the driver will take a break for a period that is 5 hours less than the maximum on-duty time (10 hours if a 15-hour drive time).
Haulers say - the current law needs to be more flexible, especially for those in the midwest.