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Farm groups say the Electronic Logging Device Rule is unworkable for those hauling livestock and is very dangerous for animals. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

Electronic logging device rule could hurt livestock industry

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Truckers hauling livestock have received a 90-day waiver from the Electronic Logging Device, or ELD, mandate, but the industry is hoping for a longer-term solution.

The rule went into effect on Dec. 18 for most operators, but the U.S. Department of Transportation delayed the regulation for those transporting livestock until mid-March.

The new regulations require certain drivers to install Electronic Logging Devices on their trucks. Also included are hours of service restrictions on truckers, limiting them to 11 hours of driving daily, after 10 hours off duty. Plus, the ELD rules restrict truckers on-duty time to 14 consecutive hours, which includes non-driving time.

South Dakota Farm Bureau President and Volga, S.D., livestock producer Scott VanderWal says they have concerns about the ELD regulations.

"If a trucker hauling livestock runs out of hours, they could be parked along the side of the road with a load of livestock," he says. "That's just not appropriate."

As a result, farm groups say the ELD Rule is unworkable for those hauling livestock and is very dangerous for animals.

"It's an animal welfare issue, and it's just a bad husbandry practice," says VanderWal.

Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, agrees the mandate is problematic for cattle producers.

"We have a living, breathing animal in the back of these trucks. They can't stop for eight hours on the side of the road," he says.

The other challenge, according to Richard Vasgaard, a Centerville, S.D., farmer and Ag United president, is the logs will be running while truckers are waiting to load and unload or if they stop for lunch.

"If they stop at the truck stop to get fuel or whatever ... I'm assuming that the meter keeps running wherever they're at," he says. If any trucker goes over those driving limits, the trucker will additionally be fined.

Another possible consequence of the ELD mandate is livestock may need to be unloaded while truckers rest. However, the co-mingling of any species of livestock could create animal health issues.

"There was some talk about maybe having to have stations where they unload them and reload them after their rest period, but that's very hard on livestock, and it could also be a disease problem," Vasgaard says.

The ELD rule will hurt truckers, but Vasgaard says it's especially tough on small operators.

"A lot of these livestock haulers are the small producers, and they don't always have the weight behind them to get the attention of the legislators that this is a big issue," he adds.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act was enacted as part of the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. It mandated that ELDs be installed by Dec. 18, 2017. That applied to commercial motor vehicles invoiced in interstate commerce, when operated by drivers who are required to keep records of duty status. The ELDs can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000, and they record driving time, monitor engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, the miles driven and location information.

The DOT issued an interpretation intended to address the shortcomings in its hours of service rules, exempting from the regulations and from any distance-logging requirement those truckers hauling livestock within a 150 air-mile radius of the location at which animals are loaded.

The waiver will give the department time to consider the request of farm groups that truckers transporting hogs, cattle and other livestock be exempt from the ELDs mandate. Farm groups cite the incompatibility between transporting livestock and DOT's hours of service rules.

"We are working to try to find some exemptions to hours of service or some other waiver that allows us to get these cattle to market," Woodall says. "So far, we have not found that, but we are working several angles to figure out what we can do to show that a truckload of cattle is not the same as a truckload of toilet paper, and they need to have some carve out to make sure that we can get those animals to market in good health."

"We need to come up with ways to get around that and make sure those livestock are cared for properly," VanderWal adds.