A Senate bill that would ease trucking requirements for livestock haulers has the backing of two major U.S. cattle groups and a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers.
Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse’s Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act was officially introduced on Wednesday. The bill would exempt livestock haulers from federal hours of service requirements until crossing the threshold of 300 air miles away from their origin point. Haulers would also be able to take a break at any point in their drive without it counting against their trucking time, which would be stretched from 11 to 18 hours.
"Our ranchers and haulers are professionals who make the well-being of livestock their top priority and that includes safe transportation,” Sasse said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation’s current regulations endanger livestock during hot summers and cold winters — which Nebraskans know well — causing significant stress on the animals and concern for the drivers.”
A bipartisan group of 10 senators cosponsored the bill: Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association were both quick to offer their support for the bill.
NCBA President Kevin Kester said that “given the unique nature of livestock hauling – often very long distances between cow-calf operations and feedlots or processing facilities – and the fact that we’re transporting live animals that must be treated humanely – this legislation is vitally important and I think it strikes a balance coupled with common sense for everybody involved.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hilker called the bill’s introduction “a historic moment for livestock and insect haulers to finally be afforded needed flexibility in the restrictive Hours-of-Service rules.”
A spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council said the organization "is pleased that Congress recognizes that the Hours of Service rules need to be reformed to addresses the unique challenges and needs of livestock haulers."
The impetus for the bill stems from concerns from the livestock industry about the mandated use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to track hours of service for truck drivers. Livestock groups were concerned about the potential animal welfare consequences from a mandated 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving under the HOS requirements.
Livestock haulers are exempted from the ELD mandate until the beginning of October.
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(Story updated to include additional comment.)
(A previous version of this story said livestock producers are exempted from hours of service rules until the beginning of October. The exemption falls under the ELD requirements.)