Truckers need better rules for breaks
Truckers hauling cattle need better rules for 10-hour break.
By Alice Mannette, Pratt Tribune
Nov 26, 2019
Sometimes, livestock must stay in the truck for ten extra hours to wait for the driver’s mandatory sleep break – even if their destination is 60 miles away. Reps. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Angie Craig (D-MN) want to change this. They have introduced a bipartisan bill, the Responsible & Efficient Agriculture Destination Act, in the House.
Smucker understands farmers and ranchers’ concerns, having been born and raised on a family-owned Amish farm in Pennsylvania. Smucker was one of 12 children.
“I have heard from numerous farmers and producers in my district that find it difficult to operate their businesses because of onerous transportation regulations that do not consider the unique nature of agriculture goods,” Smucker wrote in an email. “The introduction of this bill is important because the current transportation regulations do not account for the perishable goods our farmers bring to market.“
Truckers who drive livestock and perishables are restricted in their hours on the road. Currently, they must drive no more than 11 consecutive hours, except during harvest, when the hours lengthen a bit. But livestock trucks must transport pigs, cows and milk year-round; not just during harvest and planting season.
The TREAD Act extends the transportation hours for livestock truck drivers by increasing the hours on the backend of hauls. Each trucker can finish the route, after driving 11 hours, if they are within 150 miles as a crow flies of their destination.
Michael Sherow runs a feedlot, Sherow Cattle Company, in Langdon. He is glad something is being done for the livestock drivers who transport his cattle, but it is not enough.
“It would sure be better than what we have now,” Sherow said. “I’m for anything to help the truckers.“
According to Smucker, this bill will reduce costly obstacles that limit farmers’ ability to bring their products to consumers in a timely manner, and it will make reasonable adjustments to transportation rules.
Because truckers cannot drive more than 11 consecutive hours, they often do not take many stops. Sometimes dirt roads, traffic or an accident might delay the truck. If this happens, the driver would not make his/her destination and must find a place to unload the cattle.
“There are not facilities everywhere to unload,” said Steve Hilker, who owns Hilker Trucking in Cimarron. “You lose ability to track a disease.“
And in the case of pigs and chickens, they must stay on the truck. Because of their fragile cargo, truck drivers must possess husbandry skills. Hilker said it is hard to find drivers.
“The livestock hauler has a living, breathing commodity,” he said. “This job is not for everyone.“
Hilker is also the transportation committee chairman of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. He, like Sherow, is pleased with an increase in hours, but...