Agriculture will get a 90-day delay on the implementation of electronic logging devices for commodities and livestock-related transportation, something MonDak-area legislators have all been fighting for. The waiver extends the one granted last year, which area legislators also worked to secure.
There have been particular concerns with the new ELD devices when it comes to hauling livestock safely. The devices do not currently recognize hours of service exemptions that are in federal law for agriculture, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“This is a classic example of a one-size-fits-all federal regulation that ignores common sense to the detriment of sectors like agriculture,” Perdue said. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is also among those who have been pointing out that many agriculture commodities have to travel on strict timelines to avoid spoilage and to ensure proper coordination with other agricultural transporters, such as rail. The situation is particularly important as it relates to livestock.
“Truckers hauling livestock cannot pull over for a 10-hour break,” he said. “It’s a health and welfare issue for animals. They need to get to their destination as quickly as possible.”
Under the waiver, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstration’s new rules requiring ELDs won’t apply to those hauling livestock within a 150-air mile, or about 172-road mile radius of the source of the livestock.
Beyond that radius, HOS would begin to apply, but the driver would be able to go continue another 11 hours and work 14 hours before having to take a 10-hour break.
FMCSA intends to publish final guidance on the matter during the ELD waiver period, which will clarify the ag exemption under the 150-air mile radius rule.
Sen. John Hoeven, member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, said the waiver is good news for farmers and ranchers.
“This will help ensure that our ag products can get to market,” he said. “Moving forward, we will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate and FMCSA to provide a solution that does not impose unworkable requirements, which threaten the safety of livestock while in transit.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp urged FMCSA to continue working with stakeholders to address concerns with the requirement to use electronic logging devices.
“Moving forward, DOT must continue to engage with members of the agriculture community, provide concrete guidance for recreational horse enthusiasts and present workable guidelines to protect perishable food grown in North Dakota to protect our rural economy,” she said.
Heitkamp also sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
“In North Dakota, ranchers and recreational rodeo enthusiasts alike depend on our nation’s highways to move livestock to market and participate in rodeos across the region,” Heitkamp wrote. “As this rule has been implemented though, I have grown concerned about the lack of input agricultural and rural stakeholder groups have been able to provide during the rulemaking process, which has created considerable uncertainty in the application of the rule to these agricultural and recreational uses.”
Rep. Kevin Cramer has also written letters to Chao, and has been encouraging producers to keep sending their comments to FMCSA.
“I am pleased the agriculture industry will receive another waiver as the FMCSA reviews requests,” said Cramer. “I encourage folks to continue communicating their concerns to the agency while Congress works towards a more permanent fix.”