WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tuesday urged Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to immediately address “several serious concerns” about the electronic logging device rule being enforced in April.
“Livestock and produce haulers, farmers and rodeo enthusiasts are rightfully worried about the new ELD rules, and the DOT has not done enough to clarify who will be exempted,” Heitkamp said. “A one-size-fits-all approach to regulations simply doesn’t work in rural America, and this rule clearly lacked input from those who stand to be impacted the most. I fought to delay these ELD rules, and now the DOT must take into account the concerns of North Dakotans to properly modify and clarify the rules so folks out on the road know if they are in compliance with the law.”
Also on Tuesday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in a related development announced additional steps to address what it called “the unique needs of the country’s agriculture industries” and provided further guidance to assist in the effective implementation of the ELD mandate without impeding commerce or safety.
The FMCSA revealed an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the ELD rule for agriculture-related transportation, including livestock transporters.
Heitkamp said she had heard from transporters of livestock, honeybees and perishable produce that the new ELD rules could put their cargo at risk, threatening the economic security of farmers and transporters alike.
“In North Dakota, ranchers and recreational rodeo enthusiasts alike depend on our nation’s highways to move livestock to market and participate in rodeos across the region,” Heitkamp wrote in her letter to Chao. “As this rule has been implemented though, I have grown concerned about the lack of input agricultural and rural stakeholder groups have been able to provide during the rulemaking process, which has created considerable uncertainty in the application of the rule to these agricultural and recreational uses.”
In December, Heitkamp led a bipartisan effort to delay implementation of the ELD regulations, joining Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and others supporting a provision in the U.S. House-passed Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill delaying implementation of ELDs and providing the FMSCA “time to make the necessary adjustments to Hours of Service rules.
Heitkamp said she has been fighting for livestock and honey bee producers, especially as they continue to face the effects of a severe drought.
Last month, Heitkamp’s plan to remove the funding cap for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to producers of livestock and honeybees for losses due to weather events and disease, was signed in to law.
Heitkamp has introduced legislation to expand assistance available to livestock and honey bee producers as they recover from drought.