National and regional organizations representing livestock and poultry producers, feed makers, processors and transporters urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to contact Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro to request that FMCSA grant an immediate waiver and exemption for livestock and poultry haulers from the agency's mandatory 30-minute break policy, part of the new hours of service (HOS) rules taking effect July 1.
As part of the changes to the FMCSA HOS rules, all Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers are required to take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of "on duty" time.
"For livestock and poultry haulers, while the eight hours of on-duty time includes the time loading and unloading, the mandatory 30 minutes of off-duty time does not permit drivers to check on or otherwise look after the animals in their care," the letter indicated. "Livestock and poultry trailers are vented to allow air to move freely throughout the animal population, keeping the air both cool and fresh. Once the trailer comes to a stop, particularly during inclement weather, both the temperature and the air quality quickly become hazardous to the animals' health."
FMCSA proposed the changes to the HOS rule in December 2010. When livestock carriers commented on the negative effects these proposed changes would have on live animals (i.e., possible death during inclement weather), the FMCSA replied the comments were "overstated" commenting that the current HOS rules have been in place for many years and we continue to safely and humanely transport these animals and have done so with an impeccable driving record.
In conclusion, the letter stated, "Our coalition holds the drivers' and the animals' safety as our number one priority. Our lives depend on the health and welfare of our animals; treating them as best we can is in everyone's best interest. Agriculture has the tendency to get lost as agencies' attempt to craft universal rules. This isn't because agriculture is not important, but because many regulators do not fully understand how the industry operates or its unique needs."