WASHINGTON – Just days before the 4th of July holiday, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) indicated a 90-day waiver would be granted on a new hours-of-service rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) reports.
The rule from DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which became effective July 1, requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break for every eight consecutive hours of service. Regarding drivers hauling livestock, the hours of service includes time when loading and unloading animals.
In a June 19 letter, the NPPC and 13 other livestock, poultry and food organizations petitioned the FMCSA for the 90-day waiver and exemption from complying with the new rule. The regulation would “cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, will place the health and welfare of the livestock in their care at risk and will provide no apparent increased benefit to public safety [and will likely decrease public safety] while forcing the livestock industry and [its] drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or complying with a FMCSA regulation requiring a 30-minute rest break,” the groups said.
US livestock and poultry industries have programs – developed and offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – that educate drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare, the organizations also pointed out.
“This decision will help ensure the continued humane treatment and welfare of livestock while traveling on the nation’s highways,” said Randy Spronk, NPPC president. “By granting the 90-day waiver, the FMCSA will ensure that during hot summer months livestock won’t be sitting in the sun for extended periods, with drivers unable to care for them because they’re required to take a 30-minute break.”
NPPC was recently informed by the FMCSA via telephone that it will issue the 90-day waiver. Official notice of the decision is expected to be published next week in the Federal Register. The agency also indicated it will develop a permanent exemption from the rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry.
“America’s livestock and poultry farmers are pleased that the FMCSA recognized that its rule would not be practicable for drivers who transport hogs, cattle and poultry,” Spronk said. “We’re also grateful for FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro’s recognition of the ongoing commitment of America’s pork, livestock and poultry producers to animal welfare and highway safety and for the assistance of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in helping ensure the concerns of America’s farmers were heard.”