Congress’ Convoy of Trucking Bills

By Kayla Sargent

Flexibility for livestock haulers was at the forefront of priorities for ag in Congress last week. Two bills were reintroduced in the Senate and House aimed at a working solution for the restrictive Electronic Logging Device (ELD) and Hours-of-Service regulations put in place in December 2017.

New ELD and HOS regulations would require a ten-hour rest period after 11 hours of drive time.  The 11 hour drive time is to start after the truck has driven 150 air miles from the origin.  Many cattle shipments require more than 11 hours of driving to their destination, under current regulation, they would need to be unloaded for ten hours then reloaded before reaching their final stop.  Thus far, livestock haulers have been exempted from the regulations, however, a permanent solution has yet to be implemented.

The Transporting Livestock Across American Safely Act (TLAAS), introduced by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) on May 1, would provide that fix.  TLAAS, carrying bipartisan support from 17 Senators, makes several regulatory changes to ensure the safety of the drivers and the livestock and insects being transported.

Specifically, TLAAS would:

  • increase the air-mile radius from 150 miles to 300;
  • exempt loading and unloading time from HOS calculations;
  • extend the HOS requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 18;
  • allow drivers the flexibility to rest at any point without counting against HOS;
  • allow trip completion —  regardless of HOS requirements — if the final destination is within 150 air-miles; and
  • require that upon trip completion, drivers rest for a time period that is less than five hours of the total drive time.

“Agriculture drives Nebraska, and nobody works harder to ensure the safety and well-being of livestock than the Nebraskans who hustle day in and day out,” Senator Sassesaid. “Overly strict regulations are hurting our ranchers and our haulers. My legislation pushes back against those dumb regulations and works to promote safe transportation. This is good, reasonable, common-sense, bipartisan legislation — and it should pass so we can give Nebraskans the flexibility they need to keep livestock safe and to keep our state running and feeding the world.”

Senator Sasse has strong support from his home state Cattlemen’s Association and Farm Bureau. Nebraska Cattlemen President Mike Drinnin praised the flexibility that TLAAS offers considering “one size fits all federal regulations endanger the health and welfare of livestock by failing to account for the intricacies involved with hauling live animals.” Both organizations noted the major economic impact livestock production has in Nebraska and the role that safe, timely transportation plays in the success of the state’s livestock sector.

TLAAS — supported by Senators from Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Florida, Minnesota, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Dakota, Indiana, Wyoming, Iowa, and Oklahoma — also boasts the support of several national livestock organizations including Livestock Marketing Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA).

“This bill will not only allow drivers to take a rest break when it is needed, not when it is required, it will also increase the safety and welfare of the animals,” USCA Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker said.  He offered thanks to the Senators sponsoring the bill that addresses “safety and efficiency.”

NCBA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said the current regulations “present major challenges” that can jeopardize the health of livestock.

“Hauling livestock is inherently different than hauling typical consumer goods, like paper towels or bottles of water. Live cattle cannot simply be left unattended in a trailer – especially in very hot or cold weather – for extended periods of time. This bill recognizes the unique needs of livestock haulers, and we are grateful for the continued support of Senator Sasse and the other co-sponsors,” Woodall said.

Just one day after the reintroduction of TLAAS, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Representative Greg Pence (R-IN) introduced HR 2460, the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act (MATA).  This is companion legislation to S 600 that was introduced in the Senate in February.

MATA would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish a working group tasked with researching and identifying “initiatives and regulatory changes that maintain and protect the safety of highways and allow for the safe, efficient, and productive marketplace transport of livestock, insects, and agricultural commodities”.

The group, made up of representatives from the Department of Agriculture, state agriculture and transportation departments, highway and commercial motor vehicle safety organizations, agricultural producers, and commercial motor vehicle operators, would be responsible for creating a report for the Secretary presenting their findings no later than one year after the establishment of the group.  The Secretary is to then submit a report to Congress detailing any “recommendations for legislative or regulatory action that would assist in maintaining and improving the safe, humane, and market-efficient transport of livestock, insects, and agricultural commodities.”

USCA praised Congress for taking multiple steps to address the issue for livestock haulers last week, noting that MATA “encourages discussion and action.”

“We applaud Congress for working every angle to come up with solutions that would allow for the safe and efficient movement of cattle throughout the country. New regulations, imposed in 2017, do not work for the livestock transportation industry,” Hilker said.  “We’ve been working strategically with Members of Congress and the Administration to find regulations that enhance highway safety, while also allowing transporters to deliver their live cargo as humanely as possible.”


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