U.S. Senator Ben Sasse continued his work on behalf of Nebraska’s ranchers and haulers by filing the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act as an amendment to the Farm Bill. Sasse’s amendment would give American agriculture the flexibility to safely transport livestock by rolling back the Department of Transportation’s mandatory rest time that puts livestock at risk, especially during summer or winter months.
“It’s Nebraska’s job to feed the world — and I’ll bet on our producers to always answer that call,” said Senator Sasse. “The last thing our ranchers and haulers need are regulations that endanger livestock and we need to address this in the Farm Bill. My amendment is about getting Washington out of the way and letting Nebraska agriculture lead with common sense. We have the opportunity to do something good for ranchers, good for haulers, and good for livestock.”
This amendment to the Farm Bill is identical to legislation Sasse introduce this spring and was supported by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the Livestock Marketing Association, and others.
Sasse was joined by Senators Daines (R-MT), Hoeven (R-ND), Jones (D-AL), Risch (R-ID), Tester (D-MT), Heitkamp (D-ND), Ernst (R-IA), Rubio (R-FL), Crapo (R-ID), Paul (R-KY), Enzi (R-WY), Smith (D-MN), and Rounds (R-SD) in introducing his amendment.
On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 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, 2018 and a congressional delay has extended it through September 30, 2018.
Currently, for livestock and insects, 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.
The inflexibility of these regulations will be costly for haulers and place the well-being and welfare of insects, cattle, hogs, and other livestock at risk. 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, which would be necessitated by these HOS regulations, are especially dangerous for livestock during summer or winter months; high humidity and winter temperatures with below freezing windchills cause significant stress on livestock.
The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely (TLAAS) Act addresses these problems and eases the burden of these far-reaching HOS and ELD regulations for haulers of livestock or insects.
Specifically, the Sasse legislation:
-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.
-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 their 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).