By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) decision to grant livestock and poultry truckers a 90-day waiver from a rest break provision included in new rules was greeted warmly by many in agriculture, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc. (NCBA) and Illinois Pork Producers Assoc. (IPPA).
The rest break provision, contained within the new federal transportation bill (MAP-21, which expanded existing hours of service, HOS, exemptions for truckers hauling ag commodities) requires drivers to park their vehicles for a 30-minute break every eight hours of road time.
“We are very much opposed to cattlemen and -women being required to idle their vehicles for 30 minutes every eight hours due to the stress it would have on those hauling livestock,” said Chase Adams, a spokesperson for the NCBA.
IPPA Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk agreed, saying pigs being transported within, to or from Illinois need to be trucked to destinations as quickly as possible, especially during hot summer months when pig mortality rates increase during transit.
“Livestock is a completely different story than transporting most goods. The eight (on) and a half-hour (off) issue can have a significant animal welfare impact on pigs,” he said. “We’re very happy they’ve given us the 90-day waiver. Obviously, we’re looking for full suspension and waiver.”
Kaitschuk said while the HOS exemption is of crucial importance to many Western livestock producers who often travel great distances to make deliveries to customers, it is also relevant to Illinois pig and cattle farmers.
“Just because you have two processing plants for pigs in the state of Illinois, it doesn’t mean that producers are taking their pigs to just those two plants. There are all kinds of movements,” Kaitschuk said.
He added the rule also affects those hauling feeder pigs to customers across state lines and those bringing pigs in from elsewhere for finishing in Illinois. He also doesn’t particularly care for the wording of the MAP-21 provision affecting the first eight hours of on-duty time.
“The issue with the way this rule is written is that the clock starts ticking as soon as that driver starts doing anything, not just when they start hauling animals. That can include hooking up the trailer and waiting to get the pigs,” Kaitschuk explained.
According to Kent Bacus, NCBA associate director of legislative affairs, the FMCSA’s rule clarifies “break time” does not effectively include any other time than “time spent resting in or on a parked vehicle” or “time spent resting in a sleeper berth.” It specifically does not include time spent waiting for loading or unloading of a vehicle, time spent inspecting or servicing the vehicle or “performing any other work in the capacity, employ or service of a motor carrier” or “performing any compensated work for a person who is not a motor carrier.”
In an essay, Bacus stressed the 30 minutes livestock haulers must rest out of every eight hours of work must be spent sleeping, not checking on their cattle.
“Keep in mind, we are hauling live animals. Animals need fresh and cooler air to avoid becoming heat-stressed,” he stated. “Perhaps the bureaucrats that wrote this new rule have never been around a trailer full of livestock on a hot day. That trailer, just like this new rule, stinks.”
Pam Janssen, who operates a farrow-to-finish hog operation and raises about 200 feeder calves in Woodford County, Ill., said her family’s cattle business could be impacted by the HOS rule.
“(The feeder calves) go out to Nebraska, so it’s a big deal. Any time you have animals on transport, you don’t want to have to be sitting somewhere – the animals are in hot, confined quarters,” she said. “On the pig side, we are blessed to be close to (hog) packing plants here in central Illinois, but a lot of other producers in other states don’t have that luxury.”
FMCSA granted the 90-day waiver in response to a forecast of above-average temperatures for much of the country through September.
“The agency made the right decision,” said Mike Deering, executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Assoc. “This will allow truckers to continue treating livestock humanely by preventing unnecessary stress, especially on hot days like we’ve been experiencing here in the Midwest lately.”