In a major victory for America's hog, cattle and poultry farmers, the U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated that it will grant a 90-day waiver of a new hours-of-service rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry.
Effective July 1, the rule from DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break for every 8 consecutive hours of service. For drivers hauling livestock, the hours of service would include time loading and unloading animals.
The National Pork Producers Council, along with 13 other livestock, poultry and food organizations, in a June 19 letter petitioned the FMCSA for the 90-day waiver and exemption from complying with the new rule.
The groups said the regulation would "cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, will place the health and welfare of the livestock in their care at risk and will provide no apparent increased benefit to public safety (and will likely decrease public safety) while forcing the livestock industry and [its] drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or complying with a FMCSA regulation requiring a 30-minute rest break."
The organizations also pointed out that the livestock and poultry industries have programs – developed and offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – that educate drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare.
"This decision will help ensure the continued humane treatment and welfare of livestock while traveling on the nation's highways," said NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn. "By granting the 90-day waiver, the FMCSA will ensure that during hot summer months livestock won't be sitting in the sun for extended periods, with drivers unable to care for them because they're required to take a 30-minute break."
The FMCSA informed NPPC by telephone this morning that it will issue the 90-day waiver. Official notice of the decision is expected to be published next week in the Federal Register. Additionally, the agency indicated it will develop a permanent exemption from the rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry.
"America's livestock and poultry farmers are pleased that the FMCSA recognized that its rule would not be practicable for drivers who transport hogs, cattle and poultry," Spronk said. "We're also grateful for FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro's recognition of the ongoing commitment of America's pork, livestock and poultry producers to animal welfare and highway safety and for the assistance of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in helping ensure the concerns of America's farmers were heard."
National Pork Producer Council