Over the past months the American Horse Council (AHC) has reached out to the equine community to determine the potential impact of the upcoming Electronic Logging Device mandate. Based on the information received the AHC, in collaboration with the rest of the animal agriculture community, has requested the Department of Transportation (DOT) grant a one-year enforcement delay followed by a waiver and limited exemptions from compliance with the Dec. 18, 2017 implementation date for the Final Rule on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS).
Additionally, it was requested the DOT address the significant problems with the mandate that will occur if the compliance deadline is not extended. The welfare, safety, and health of the animals in transit, together with the safety of other drivers on the road, are top priorities for the equine industry and its enthusiasts.
The livestock sector has consistently been one of the safest of the commercial hauling sectors. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute, showed that of 1,123 accidents involving trucks hauling cargo, only five involved the transportation of livestock. Similarly, the report titled Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents Fact-book 2005, conducted by the Transportation Research Institute, shows that livestock transporters accounted for just 0.7 percent of fatal accidents. The ELD mandate itself, which is the subject of this petition, does nothing to improve that record of safety over paper logs.
While this figure is not irrelevant, and any safety improvements should be considered, the trajectory of this rule’s implementation has left much to be desired. Despite it being issued nearly two years ago, awareness for this rule among livestock haulers and the equine industry is nearly non-existent. For instance, FMCSA’s recent change to include livestock in its interpretation of the 150-air mile exemption for agricultural commodities, a change that the industry strongly supports and appreciates, has raised many additional questions from livestock haulers who are unsure about the mechanics of the new exemption and even if it means they are exempt from the ELD mandate altogether. More time is needed to reach out to the horse industry, and ensure that industry outreach can address ELD compliance and ELD impact.
Many horse operations and competitions are in rural areas, routinely requiring long, and repeated, trips. These animals, when loaded onto trailers, are vulnerable to changes in temperature, humidity, and precipitation. Horse haulers are accustomed to managing these changing conditions through planning, log books and notations in those books. These planning techniques have adapted and evolved over decades as technology has improved, unfortunately the quick transition to ELDs does not allow for the natural trial and error process to adequately meet the needs of the horse industry.
The equine industry and the millions of horse fans who attend equine events rely on safe and effective methods of transportation from every corner of the United States. Domestic transit of our competition and breeding animals is critical to the business continuity of our industry and is largely reliant on the use of large commercial haulers. These individuals have expressed their concern with the implications of this rule in regards to the negative impacts to standards in welfare, biosecurity and cost.
“We are disappointed that the FMCSA did not feel the need to reach out to the larger livestock industry stakeholders prior to finalizing this rule, but specifically for not reaching out to the equine industry considering the constant and repeated travel inherit to the competitive, coast to coast nature of our industry,” said AHC President Julie Broadway. “While horse haulers are able to provide accommodating shipping conditions compared to other livestock sectors, the issues we have with immediate implementation of the rule mirror those of the larger animal agriculture community.”
The American Horse Council will continue to petition for an enforcement delay, to be followed by a waiver and/or limited exemptions from compliance with the final rule on ELDs and specifically the expected Hours of Service (HOS). Additionally we will continue to take advantage of any opportunity to collaborate with FMCSA and the DOT during this delay to better meet the needs of the animal agriculture community on future regulatory efforts.