The U.S. Department of Transportation last week granted a 90-day waiver of a new hours-of-service rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry. In addition, NPPC requested a two-year exemption from the 30-minute rest break requirement, which the agency agreed to consider.
Effective July 1, the rule from DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break for every 8 consecutive hours of service. For drivers hauling livestock, the hours of service would include time loading and unloading animals.
NPPC President Randy Spronk said by granting the 90-day waiver, the FMCSA will ensure that "during hot summer months livestock won't be sitting in the sun for extended periods, with drivers unable to care for them because they're required to take a 30-minute break."
The NPPC said official notice of the 90-day waiver will be published July 11 in the Federal Register.
Livestock groups, including the National Pork Producers Council and 13 others, said in a June 19 petition letter that the rule would put animal welfare at risk by "forcing the livestock industry and [its] drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or complying with a FMCSA regulation requiring a 30-minute rest break."
The groups also noted that the requirements would place the health and welfare of the livestock in their care at risk and will provide no apparent increased benefit to public safety.
Livestock and poultry industries currently have programs that have been developed and offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare.
"America's livestock and poultry farmers are pleased that the FMCSA recognized that its rule would not be practicable for drivers who transport hogs, cattle and poultry," Spronk said.
The rule was first announced in December 2011, and limits the average work week for truck drivers from 82 to 70 hours.