By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
OMAHA (DTN) -- Agricultural haulers have been given a 90-day reprieve from a federal mandate requiring electronic logging devices in semi-trucks.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Monday announced a 90-day waiver for agricultural haulers starting Dec. 18 when a new rule requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) is supposed to take effect for the rest of the trucking industry. The exemption would run through March 18, 2018.
The devices are connected to a semi-truck engine and synchronized to log driving time to make hours-of-service record keeping more accurate.
The National Pork Producers Council and other industry groups had asked for the waiver and an exemption from the overall regulation. NPPC states the regulation, combined with the Department of Transportation's hours-of-service rule, is incompatible with hauling livestock. The regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of daily driving, after 10 consecutive hours off duty. That simply doesn't work for hauling livestock longer distances.
"The ELDs regulation poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care," said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Illinois. "This waiver will give the department time to consider our request that truckers transporting hogs, cattle and other livestock be exempt from the ELDs mandate."
Maschhoff added, "Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they're hauling."
The FMCSA announced the agricultural waiver as well as detailing formal guidance and a public comment period to clarify the existing 150 air-miles hours-of-service exemption for the agricultural industry.
"FMCSA has listened to important feedback from many stakeholder groups, including agriculture, and will continue to take steps to ease the transition to the full implementation of the ELD rule," said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux.
Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the 90-day waiver is good news for cattle producers and a sign the Trump administration is listening to concerns.
"We've maintained for a long time that FMSCA is not prepared for this ELD rollout, that there needs to be more outreach from the Department of Transportation to the agricultural community, and that there's currently still major confusion on the agricultural exemption on hours of service known as the 150 air-mile rule," Uden said.
Steve Hilker, chairman of the transportation committee for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, said he and other members of the USCA sat down with federal officials earlier this year to talk about livestock hauling and the issues related to Electronic Logging Devices.
Hilker said USCA is confident the Trump administration "will find that livestock haulers need additional flexibility in the mandate, specifically in the restrictive Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. USCA will continue to be an active participant in these discussions and asks its members to do the same by submitting comments and keeping pressure on their elected officials to support the industry in securing these needed changes."
The FMCSA also announced Monday that other truckers will have a four-month time frame to comply with the ELD rule. Truckers stopped from Dec. 18-to-April 1 without an ELD will be ticketed, but allowed to continue driving as long as they are in compliance with the hours-of-service rule, the Hill reported. Normal enforcement of the regulation will begin April 1.
To address any confusion on the roadway, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association encouraged producers to print out the letter released by the FMCSA on Monday and keep the letter just in case they are stopped. (https://goo.gl/…)
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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