Legislation a Senate panel approved June 7 directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to connect with trucking and agriculture industry executives, federal policymakers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address the concerns livestock haulers have raised about electronic logging devices.
The leadership at DOT should consider the “unique challenges associated with transporting live animals and agricultural commodities” during its outreach with stakeholders, according to the directive the Senate Appropriations Committee attached to a fiscal 2019 transportation funding bill. The legislation was approved, as amended, 31-0.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) had shared the livestock haulers’ concerns with his colleagues during the bill’s consideration.
“I think everybody can understand and appreciate when you’re hauling livestock, you have to accommodate those live animals, and flexibility is required,” Hoeven said. “We’re not completely done, but this is another step in the right direction. We need to get to a long-term, permanent solution.”
His colleague, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), agreed.
“Under current constraints, getting livestock from Montana to locations as far away as Nebraska is nearly impossible to do,” Daines added.
Senate funding leaders say they are optimistic the chamber will clear the transportation measure prior to the July 4 recess. A fiscal 2019 funding bill awaiting a vote in the House would deny funding for the enforcement of the ELD rule on livestock haulers.
The Senate’s directive to DOT comes shortly after Hoeven and other senators introduced legislation recently that would set different ELD and hours-of-service requirements for livestock haulers. That bill would shift requirements for certain commercial drivers to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time. Under current rules, commercial drivers are allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The bill also would exempt loading and unloading times from HOS tally.
Congress, meanwhile, has been tackling the ELD issue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was directed not to enforce the ELD rule for agriculture-related transportation through Sept. 30, under a fiscal 2018 funding law. At the same time, FMCSA has issued two 90-day temporary waivers from the ELD rule for parts of the agriculture sector.
Since the mandate took effect in December, the livestock haulers sector has sought an exemption from ELD requirements.
Overall, the Senate funding bill would provide $26.6 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation for fiscal 2019. The BUILD infrastructure grants program, formerly known as TIGER, would receive $1 billion. FMCSA would be provided $667 million.
“The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill will help make key infrastructure investments in Vermont and across the country, including $10 billion in new funds to help address our nation’s crumbling bridges, railways and roads, and invest in affordable housing. These increases are a direct result of the bipartisan budget deal reached earlier this year and are critically needed,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “These are smart investments that can be leveraged by local communities and that do not leave rural America behind.”
The House version also would provide $27.8 billion in discretionary spending for DOT for year 2019. BUILD grants would receive $750 million, and FMCSA would be provided $666 million.