March 8, 2019

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590

The Honorable Raymond Martinez
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20590

Re: Docket No. FMCSA-2018-0334-0002, Hours of Service of Drivers: Exemption Applications (transporters of livestock, insects, and aquatic animals)

Dear Secretary Chao and Administrator Martinez:

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments in response to the application for exemption from certain provisions in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) rules, submitted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association and the National Aquaculture Association. PFB encourages the Department of Transportation to grant this request for exemption so that farmers, haulers and the agency can take the appropriate steps to alleviate concerns regarding the hauling of live animals.

PFB—the state affiliate of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), one of the aforementioned co-petitioners—is a general farm organization, made up of more than 62,000 members. Since 1950, PFB has provided support, advocacy and informational and professional services for Pennsylvania agriculture and farm families producing a diverse array of food and fiber for American consumers, and we take very seriously the responsibility to transport safely to protect our loved ones, our communities, our animals and ourselves. We further believe that just as there cannot be a “one-size-fits-all” approach to agriculture, there should not be a “one-size-fits-all” regulation when it comes to government mandates.

Our grassroots membership—many of whom are farmers intimately involved in the transportation of livestock to market—has clearly voiced its concerns regarding current HOS rules through our policy development process. PFB therefore supports the request by AFBF and its co-petitioners, on behalf of drivers who transport livestock, insects, and aquatic animals, for approval to drive through the 16th consecutive hour after coming on duty and drive a total of 15 hours during that 16-hour period. This exemption request not only asks that those hauling livestock, fish, and insects be allowed to drive 15 hours during a 16-hour work day and rest the currently required 10 hours, but also requires that these drivers complete fatigue management training, have a sufficient safety record, and are willing to follow certain documentary requirements.

Some livestock hauls from the farm to the market, and from the market to the next destination, can be completed in the 11 hours allotted under current regulations; however, there are several trips that cannot be made in that time frame. Therefore, four additional hours of drive time would facilitate longer hauls that are necessitated by the distance between where cattle are born, fed, and harvested.

Many livestock operations are in remote, rural areas, routinely requiring long transport hauls for animals. These animals, when loaded onto trailers, are vulnerable to changes in temperature, especially temperature increases. Industry guidelines mandate that drivers avoid any stops while hauling livestock, especially in warmer weather, as the trailers are designed to cool the animals down while in motion. Clearly, the majority of livestock cannot withstand the stress of 10 hours stopped without airflow or the added time on the trailer necessitated by such an extended rest. The other option is unloading livestock at the few-and-far-between livestock rest areas along our interstate system for the 10-hour break. This will expose livestock to the potential of injury during the unloading and reloading process, as well as present severe biosecurity risks due to comingling of animals at an in-transit stop. Drivers who reach driving-time limits for a variety of reasons while hauling animals will face a difficult decision: compliance with animal welfare laws and guidelines or compliance with the FMCSA HOS rules.

As the exemption request states, by completing extra training and conducting trip planning activities, livestock haulers can use this extra drive time in an equivalently safe manner. PFB believes that current HOS rules do not take full advantage of modern fatigue management research and the experience of other countries showing that on-duty time limits alone are not optimal tools for managing operator fatigue in the livestock hauling industry.

In conjunction with the proven fatigue management countermeasures proposed in the petition, this exemption would not only bring FMCSA’s HOS rules up to date with current approaches to fatigue management, it would also align those rules with Secretary Chao’s performance-based, data-driven approach for overseeing the safety of our nation’s transportation systems and operators. Under this exemption, livestock haulers would be able to more appropriately manage their own rest and work schedules under fatigue management measures outlined in the petition, to ensure both the well-being of their livestock and the safe operation of their commercial motor vehicles. This request is also specifically focused on providing flexibility to a small, well-defined, specific group of haulers, not a broad cross-section of the entire trucking industry. Finally, this request for exemption includes significant safety data as the livestock hauling industry is one that has a strong and continuous safety record and is designed similarly to an already successful and safe long-distance hauling program in Australia.

In conclusion, PFB believes that the 11- and 14-hour rules were not drafted with livestock haulers in mind and thus do not accommodate the unique character of their loads and nature of their trips. Livestock hauling is like no other activity, and, therefore, requires flexibility due to the many circumstances that go along with hauling live animals. PFB shares FMCSA’s commitment to safety and appreciates the challenges it must address in formulating applicable safety standards across a wide range of circumstances involving motor carriers. We thank you for the opportunity to share these comments and appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this matter. PFB is committed to working with the agency to address these concerns while still maintaining safety on our roads.

Best regards,

Grant R. Gulibon
Director, Regulatory Affairs