Livestock haulers will be exempt from hours-of-service requirements until the end of November, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Tuesday. 

The current exemption, which was set to expire at midnight, now will expire at midnight Nov. 30. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association quickly praised the move by Department of Transportation officials.

“Giving us this flexibility allows us to be nimble and allows us to continue to maintain that high level of safety, while making sure cattle get moved and beef ends up on those grocery store shelves,” Allison Rivera, NCBA's executive director of government affairs, told Agri-Pulse.

Cattle producers say current HOS rules make travel difficult for livestock haulers because they require 10 consecutive hours of rest after 14 hours of on-duty time, which includes 11 hours of drive time. 

Having to stop for many hours puts animals’ health at risk when they are being transported long distances, Rivera noted.

“If (haulers) are not at their destination or somewhere where they are able to stop and offload livestock, they can’t sit on the side of the road or at a Truckstop with livestock on the back for 10 consecutive hours,” she said.   

Rivera said the organization continues to work with officials toward “more permanent flexibility” with service rules. She also noted HOS flexibility provisions, which add “the backend 150 air-mile exemption to hours-of-service” are included in the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure package. 

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Livestock producers have been exempted from HOS requirements since the pandemic began in mid-March of 2020. 

In March 2021, Sens. John Hoeven R-N.D., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced a bill that aims to develop a working group of DOT, USDA, ag, and transportation industry officials to examine guidelines on ways to reform existing HOS requirements for hauling farm goods.

Robert Yeakel, director of government relations at the National Grocers Association, also applauded administration officials for extending the exemption.

“Independent grocers, whether retail of wholesale, have been working around the clock for over a year to keep shelves stocked and their communities fed,” he said. “Like many other industries operating during this pandemic, our supply chain has suffered shocks that will continue to reverberate.”

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