WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied livestock haulers an exemption for hours-of-service, citing safety concerns.
The ruling was published on Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the Federal Register.
“FMCSA analyzed the application and public comments and has determined that the exemption would not achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” FMCSA officials wrote in their response.
In November 2018, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association and National Aquaculture Association asked the agency to exempt its drivers from portions of the hours-of-service regulations.
The organizations had wanted its drivers to continue operating through the 16th consecutive hour after coming on duty and to drive a total of 15 hours during the 16-hour period — all after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
“We are concerned that the 11- and 14-hour rules were not drafted with livestock haulers in mind and thus do not accommodate the unique character of their loads and nature of their trips,” the groups wrote in the 2018 request.
Supporters of the proposal referenced industry guidelines that direct drivers to avoid stops while hauling livestock, especially in warmer weather, as the trailers are designed to cool the animals while in motion.
According to many who supported the request, the majority of livestock cannot withstand the stress of 10 hours stopped without airflow or the added time on the trailer necessitated by such an extended rest.
FMCSA officials pointed out that livestock haulers are exempt from all hours-of-service regulations under the agricultural commodities exemption, which covers a 150 air-mile radius from the source of the agricultural commodities.
The National Transportation Safety Board, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and Truckload Carriers Association were among the opponents.
The CVSA called the request “unjustified and impractical.”
“Research studies demonstrate that long work hours reduce sleep and harm driver health, and that crash risk increases with work hours,” FMCSA wrote in its response to the petition “The hours-of-service regulations impose limits on when and how long an individual may drive to ensure that drivers stay awake and alert, and to reduce the possibility of cumulative fatigue.”
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