A handful of farm groups have been rejected in their effort to exempt truckers hauling live animals from federal mandates limiting the hours a driver can be on the job.

According to a Federal Register notice to be published Tuesday, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said approval of the request would not lead to safer conditions for drivers.

“If the agency were to grant the exemption, drivers transporting agricultural commodities would be allowed six or more hours of driving time within the 150 air-mile exempt zones for the transportation of agricultural commodities, in addition to the 15 hours of driving time outside the zone,” FMCSA said in its notice.

However, "allowing 21 or more hours of driving during a work shift would not likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the exemption,” FMCSA said.

Kent Bacus, executive director of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the group is "disappointed in FMCSA’s decision, especially when the cattle and beef supply chain faces continued stress from driver shortages and a potential rail strike. Hauling cattle is very different from hauling consumer goods, which is why NCBA will continue urging congressional leaders to support expanded hours-of-service flexibility for livestock haulers so they can continue making their critical deliveries.” 

Interested in more coverage and insights? Receive a free month of Agri-Pulse!  

The denial removes one approach for relief for livestock truckers but does not leave ag groups without options. The groups could still pursue an appropriations rider as they have in recent years to exempt the industry from the use of electronic logging devices, the onboard modules tracking a driver’s hours of service. Legislation to address the matter could also be on the table, but similar approaches have been unsuccessful in the past.

One lawmaker, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said he was “disappointed that this administration once again failed to listen to the farmers and ranchers who know what is best for their animals.

“Hauling live animals presents unique challenges that the one-size-fits-all hours of service rule does not accommodate,” Marshall said. “Rejecting this request keeps a layer of bureaucracy and red tape on an industry that is already struggling to find workers and meet consumer demand.”

In addition to NCBA, the Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association and National Aquaculture Association had sought the waiver from FMCSA.

For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.