A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they’re on the road — a rule that’s meant to make highways safer. But there’s a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.
Livestock haulers need flexibility, and the electronic logging devices, or ELDs, that the government is requiring to be installed in trucks don’t allow for that, according to Steve Hilker of Steve Hilker Trucking in Dodge City, Kansas. Under the law, truckers are strictly held to “hours of service,” limiting the overall workday to 14 hours and the time on the road to 11 hours.
For example, Hilker says, if drivers come upon traffic and reach their maximum number of hours before reaching their destination, there isn’t really a place to let animals off of the trucks while their drivers rest. Even if there were enough places along the highways and state routes to let the animals out, these sites would have to be kept clean so they wouldn’t spread disease, he says. Plus, research shows that loading and unloading is extremely stressful for the animals — not to mention a lot of work.
But with all things, there are two sides. The American Trucker Association, which represents the interests of mostly larger trucking companies, supports the ELD mandate.
“There’s been enough research and data that has shown to us, that these will be a net positive,” says ATA spokesman Sean McNally, citing a U.S. Department of Transportation estimate that adopting ELDs could prevent over 1,800 crashes and 26 deaths each year.
For now, the livestock industry will wait to find out whether the federal Department of Transportation takes its unique needs into account, things like letting truckers drive longer on hot days. And speaking of clocking time, livestock haulers are hoping a decision will come quickly, because its temporary exemption is only good until March 18.
Read the full article about the livestock hauling laws by Ben Kuebrich at Harvest Public Media.
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