Farmers ask for flexible livestock hauling regulations

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RICHMOND—Virginia farmers are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider the unique circumstances of transporting live animals over long distances, and amend regulations for farmers and other drivers hauling livestock.

Current DOT regulations limit drive time for livestock haulers to 11 hours and limit on-duty hours to 14. But many farmers transport their cattle and other animals across several states to deliver them, making it extremely difficult to meet DOT standards while adhering to animal welfare standards.

Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said that organization’s producer members “believe 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.”

Animal welfare, he noted “is priority No. 1 while hauling livestock. Livestock trailers are designed to keep animals comfortable while in transport, not sitting by the side of the road for hours. Industry guidelines mandate that drivers avoid any stops while hauling livestock, especially in warmer weather. Unloading animals to take a mandatory rest break is not only impractical but also increases stress on the animals.

“There are very few cattle pens available on or near interstate highways. Frankly, it’s safer for the animals to make the trip nonstop, provided they are in good health and have a driver with a good safety record who has completed fatigue management training.”

Farm Bureau has submitted formal comments on the regulations to the Department of Transportation and is urging its producer members to make their own comments before March 8. Their request is to allow a small set of drivers, specifically farmer-owners and animal haulers, to be able to drive through the 16th hour after coming on duty and drive a total of 15 hours during the 16-hour period before stopping for a rest.

The current DOT drive time restrictions were announced last year and were controversial among farmers, so much so that Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Michael Bennet of Colorado have introduced a bill to address farmer concerns. The Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act would reform the hours of service and electronic logging device regulations and delay enforcement of the electronic logging regulations until a working group develops more satisfactory guidelines for the safe and humane transport of livestock.

“Whether the DOT takes our concerns to heart, or the new bill makes changes, farmers need reform,” Rowe said. “Our producers, especially in Southwest Virginia cattle country, feel they’re being squeezed by these new trucking hours of duty regulations.”

Media: Contact Rowe at 804-290-1017 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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