By STAN MADDUX
WASHINGTON D.C. — Haulers of livestock and insects will not have to install electronic logging devices (ELD), if a recently proposed one-year delay on the mandate is adopted.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill on a vote of 31-20 on July 19. The legislation includes a provision that prevents any funds available to the Department of Transportation from being used to administer or enforce the ELD requirement for livestock haulers in 2018.
Applause is coming from many in the livestock industry hoping for other, less-restrictive solutions in the coming months.
An ELD working with a vehicle engine automatically records driving time to discourage haulers from staying on the road longer than what’s legally allowed.
ELD supporters claim the devices coupled with an existing restriction that limits driving time to 11 hours within a 14-hour window after the driver comes on duty will increase safety.
Livestock producers, though, claim it’s not fair especially when farm animals being perishable are commodities relying more heavily on timely deliveries and longer shipping times could mean fewer people interested in buying.
Kevin Kester, president-elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc., said if the mandate is pushed back, producers will have more time to work with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to add more flexibility, particularly with the limits on hours of service (HOS).
“We hope that our continued work with FMCSA will allow them to understand the needs of our industry,” said Kester. Those needs are “balancing the welfare of livestock with the safety of highly skilled drivers and the need to get animals moved in the safest and most efficient way possible for the driver, others on the road, and the animals,” Kester said.
Steve Hilker, chair of the transportation committee for the U.S, Cattlemen’s Assoc., said the hope is to have alternative solutions implemented before a one-year delay on the ELD mandate expires.
Moving back the deadline follows extensive talks with decision makers, including the most recent in June when livestock haulers from across the United States traveled to Washington, D.C. to support the one-year delay and amending the HOS.
“For over a year, we have been working to address the need for greater flexibility for our livestock haulers within the ELD mandate,” Hilker said.
Originally, the ELD rule was to begin in February 2016; but after a failed legal challenge within the trucking industry, drivers and carriers still using paper logs or logging software must transition to ELDs no later than Dec. 18, the FMCSA said.
The rule was challenged by the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Assoc., which represents small-business truckers. The OOIDA argued ordering the use of ELDs violated the constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures and doesn’t increase safety because they are no more reliable than keeping drive time records in paper logbooks.
FMCSA has not provided any proof that ELDs will make the roads safer, OOIDA stated.
Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA, said the requirement is more about large companies using government to hurt competing small business operators with the expense of having to comply.
“The mandate has everything to do with large, economically motivated entities using the government to impose their will on small businesses which comprise the majority of the trucking industry. Until the government is able to answer many fundamental and basic questions about the mandate, they should at least delay its implementation,” said Johnston.
OOIDA took the matter all the way to the U.S Supreme Court, which decided recently not to review the matter.
Johnston said the fight will go on, though, by continuing to push members of Congress and the Trump administration to eliminate “bad regulations.”
According to FMCSA, drivers who use timecards to keep track of their road hours and those who use paper logbooks no more than eight days during a 30-day period are exempt from the ELD requirement.