WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/25/18]—U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is supporting bipartisan legislation—the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act—to give drivers more flexibility during their trips and better protect the safety of livestock, especially in the hot summer months and cold Minnesota winters.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires haulers to turn on an electronic logging device in their trucks when they reach a certain point from where they originally picked up their livestock. From that point on, haulers must track their on-duty time before taking a mandatory extended rest period. This extended rest period puts the welfare of livestock—including cattle, hogs, and turkey—at risk and leaves drivers little discretion as to when to take their breaks.
The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act addresses these problems by restructuring when haulers must track their hours of service, and gives them more freedom to determine when to rest during their trips.
“We support our livestock producers, and we also need make to make sure we’re extending that same support to the men and women who are making sure their products are able to get to market,” said Sen. Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bill shows that after hearing from farmers and ranchers about the real concerns of livestock haulers, I’m focused on finding a bipartisan solution that keeps animals’ wellbeing in mind and is good for haulers in Minnesota and across the country.”
The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act would:
· Increase the distance transporters must travel before needing to comply with the hours of service (HOS) and ELD rules. The drive time for HOS purposes would not start until after 300-air mile threshold is reached.
· Exempt loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.
· Extend the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time.
· Grant flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.
· Allow drivers to complete their trip – regardless of HOS requirements – if they come within 150-air miles of their delivery point.
The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act—introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebr.)—is also supported by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
This bill is supported by the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association (MSCA), the Minnesota Pork Board, and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association:
“Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association leaders and members appreciate Senator Smith listening to our concerns regarding animal well-being during transport under current hours of service regulation. We thank her for taking leadership to help correct this issue for our members and livestock haulers,” Said Krist Wollum, MSCA President.
“We thank Sen. Smith for recognizing this problem and the unique needs of transporting livestock to protect animal welfare. This common sense approach is needed,” said Greg Boerboom, Marshall, MN President of Minnesota Pork Producers Association.
“The importance of this legislation is that it protects bird health, welfare and driver safety,” said Steven Olson, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Executive Director.
Sen. Smith fought for a spot on the Senate Agriculture Committee because she wants to do her part to help Minnesota’s ag economy grow. She’s helped introduce legislation to make sure producers from diverse backgrounds—including veteran and immigrant farmers—are able to access services through a vital Department of Agriculture (USDA) program. And this week, Sen. Smith introduced a bill that would help farmers create and maintain plans to improve soil and water quality on farms in Minnesota and across the country. Her bill would streamline coordination between two lading conservation programs in the Farm Bill. Sen. Smith also helped introduce the Rural Health Liaison Act, which would create a position to make sure there’s also better coordination between the USDA and other federal agencies, especially with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).