MSCA joins cattlemen from across the country to comment on Changes to Hours of Service

The Honorable Elaine Chao Secretary,

U.S. Department of Transportation 1200

New Jersey Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20590 

The Honorable Raymond Martinez Administrator

, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Suite 600 Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Chao and Administrator Martinez,  

The live animal hauling community thanks you for the chance to share our comments and views on issues impacting the trucking industry as a whole. It is our hope that we can provide needed nuance with respect to how changes to transportation regulations would impact and even possibly benefit our various industries.  

We appreciate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ongoing effort to work collaboratively with the larger trucking industry to find opportunities for meaningful flexibilities that can be used in safe and effective ways. Yet another step in this journey of collaboration is this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) process and the solicitation of feedback on the five areas of concentration enumerated in the NPRM. Although the modifications proposed in the NPRM are generally positive for the trucking industry, they still do not address the unique needs of livestock haulers. However, certain changes proposed below would provide assistance to some of these drivers.   The members of the signing organizations below have teamed up as a coalition of livestock, fish, and insect (collectively livestock) producers and haulers. Our members raise, produce, and market animals across the country and, despite a variety of diverse needs, are all supportive of FMCSA’s interest in finding ways to help our communities find flexibilities when hauling live animals. 

Below, we respond to two particular issues raised by the NPRM: the split sleeper berth program and the definition of an adverse driving condition. 

Background:   Livestock haulers comprise a small subset of all CMV drivers. Livestock haulers boast a long record of safely transporting live animals across the country in a statistically safe manner, due to prudent route planning, specialized equipment, safe driving practices, and driver training addressing fatigue management.   Livestock auction markets, farmers, and ranchers are particularly impacted by transportation laws and regulations. Livestock are trucked to market for sale and then hauled again to the country’s highest quality grazing lands and feedyards in the central and southern plains. Livestock do not travel frequently in their lifetimes, but when they do, they can travel significant distances across constantly changing weather patterns and diverse terrain. For example, according to a survey conducted as part of the Beef Quality Assurance program, the mean distance traveled by feeder calves to Texas and Nebraska feedyards was approximately 467.89 miles. This is a significant average given the immense quantity of “local” cattle raised within Texas, Nebraska, and their neighboring states, which need not travel significant distances to arrive at a feedyard.  However, livestock traveling from Florida, California, the Northwest, and the Carolinas, to the Midwest or Southwest, travel significantly longer distances. Where animals travel to and from depends on who is buying and selling the animals as well as the time of year and market conditions.  

The key to safely hauling live animals, especially in times of great heat and humidity, is to stop as infrequently as possible and to keep the trailer moving to provide ventilation. The trailer environment has been identified as having the greatest effect on animal welfare during transport. (Mitchell and Kettlewell, 2008). In North America, livestock transport trailers are ventilated by perforations in the aluminum walls of the trailer as well as openings in the roof. Consequently, the potential to have poor welfare outcomes is significant if the trailer is not moving, especially under extreme weather conditions. The association between decreased animal welfare and increased transport duration is well established and includes greater in-transit weight loss, lameness, incidence of non-ambulatory animals, and death, as well as increased morbidity upon arrival.   Many livestock hauls can be concluded within the time frame outlined by the Hours of Service without significant stops which limit airflow.  Unfortunately for livestock located in or heading to states outside the center of the country, this is simply not the case. When a driver “runs out of time” while hauling live animals, they are given the grim prospects of unloading the livestock or leaving them on the trailer for a 10-hour stretch with deadly high ambient temperatures and humidity.

 Split Sleeper Berth:   Producers, marketers, and shippers of live animals are greatly interested in roadway safety and mitigating driver fatigue. We support a split sleeper berth program that would allow our haulers to break up their rest period in commonsense ways. The needs of livestock haulers are dictated not only by the rest needed by the driver, but also the needs of the live animals they haul. A split sleeper program as currently envisioned by the NPRM will not work for many of our haulers. Weather, type, age of livestock, and other environmental factors all play a role in determining when and how haulers move their livestock, which is why flexibility is so important. Although a 10 hour stop with live animals onboard is almost never appropriate, allowing livestock haulers to use their professional judgment to determine when weather conditions are right to stop for a break of a few hours will allow drivers to use their rest periods more productively and safely. For some drivers, hauling certain animals in certain climates, the proposed 7 and 3 and 6 and 4 hour splits may prove to be helpful, however, for most haulers these long breaks may not be appropriate. Feedback from our stakeholders indicates that a few shorter rest periods during the haul followed by a longer “full rest” at the end of the drive may be more helpful. This would allow the driver to evaluate humidity and temperature and determine if a stop is tolerable for the animals they are hauling, which will allow them to rest to avoid traffic or other roadway hazards. The livestock hauling industry sees allowing three splits of time with a longer “full rest” at the end of the drive (perhaps of 5 or 6 hours) with two shorter nap periods of 2 or 3 hours during the haul as a possibly viable solution for certain drivers. This would be more likely to allow our haulers to participate in the split sleeper berth program while maintaining our high standard of highway safety, but also looking out for the welfare of the livestock on board. 

  Adverse Driving Conditions:   We also encourage FMCSA to evaluate the definition of an “adverse driving condition” in an expansive and useful way specific to livestock haulers. It seems logical that blizzards, hurricanes, and unexpected traffic accidents are adverse driving conditions. But to livestock haulers, humidity and hot weather can create equally detrimental adverse hauling conditions that force drivers to reconfigure their route and rest plans because they simply cannot stop with animals onboard. Defining “adverse driving conditions” in a way that is broad enough that livestock haulers find it useful will encourage these drivers to maintain roadway safety and animal welfare.  

Our organizations would support a definition of “adverse driving conditions” that includes the following language: “including- for live animal haulers only- ambient temperatures and humidity that the live animal hauler reasonably believes will be detrimental to the live animals onboard if the driver were to stop for any significant period of time.” We would also support guidance to roadside enforcement that advises them of the dangers of temperature and humidity swings on the morbidity and mortality of live animals and instructs them as to the impact time of year may have on unseasonable but otherwise not normally “extreme” weather (e.g. a 50-degree day in January on mature animals with a full winter coat).  

Conclusion:   We appreciate our ongoing partnership with FMCSA in our continued effort to safeguard the well-being of the nation’s livestock during interstate transport. We hope that the agency will continue to evaluate changes to the HOS framework with livestock haulers in mind. At the end of the day, the modifications proposed in the NPRM are a net positive for the trucking industry, but still do not address the unique needs of livestock haulers. However, the changes proposed by these comments would be a welcome first step toward the agency providing assistance to this subset of drivers.  


Alabama Cattlemen’s Association

American Beekeeping Federation

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Goat Federation

American Honey Producers Association

American National CattleWomen

American Sheep Industry Association

American Sheep Shearers Council

Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association

California Cattlemen’s Association

California Wool Growers Association

Colorado Cattlemen’s Association

Colorado Livestock Association

Cooper Horse Transportation

Florida Cattlemen’s Association

Georgia Cattlemen's Association

Idaho Cattle Association

Idaho Wool Growers Association

Illinois Beef Association

Indiana Beef Cattle Association

Indiana Sheep Association

Iowa Cattlemen's Association

Iowa Sheep Industry Association

Kansas Livestock Association

Kentucky Cattlemen's Association

Livestock Marketing Association

Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association

Maryland Cattlemen's Association

Maryland Sheep Breeders Association

Michigan Cattlemen’s Association

Michigan Sheep Producers Association

Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers

Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association

Mississippi Cattlemen's Association

Missouri Cattlemen’s Association

Montana Stockgrowers Association

Montana Wool Growers Association

National Aquaculture Association

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Nebraska Cattlemen Association

Nevada Cattlemen's Association

New Mexico Cattle Growers Association

New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc.

North American Meat Institute

North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association

North Dakota Sheep and Lamb Producers Assn

North Dakota Stockmen’s Association

Ohio Cattlemen’s Association

Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association

Pennsylvania Cattlemen's Association

Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association

South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association

South Dakota Sheep Growers Association

Southwest Meat Association

Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association

Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

Texas Cattle Feeders Association

Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association

United States Cattlemen’s Association

Utah Cattlemen’s Association

Utah Wool Growers Association

Virginia Cattlemen's Association

Washington Cattle Feeders Association

West Virginia Cattlemen’s Association

Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Wyoming Wool Growers Association    

Posted: October 21, 2019