The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has rejected a petition from several agricultural groups asking for more Hours of Service flexibility for drivers hauling livestock and other animal goods.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on November 29, the FMCSA announced its decision to deny the joint application from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association and National Aquaculture Association for an exemption from certain provisions in the Hours of Service (HOS) rules.

The petition asked the FMCSA to allow drivers hauling livestock, insects, and aquatic animals, after 10 consecutive hours off duty, to drive through the 16th consecutive hour after coming on duty, and to drive a total of 15 hours during that 16-hour period.

From the FMCSA:

[The petitioners] note that livestock haulers are currently permitted to operate in “an exempt zone within a radius of 150 air miles” of the source of an agricultural commodity. FMCSA’s published regulatory guidance provides that time spent working within the 150 air-mile radius does not count toward the driver’s daily and weekly HOS limits. Accordingly, the 15- and 16-hour limits requested by the applicants would begin after a livestock hauler travels outside the 150 air-mile radius.

The agricultural groups argued that current maximum driving and on-duty limits harm the welfare of the animals and place significant burdens on livestock haulers.

When the FMCSA opened a public comment period on the petition in February 2019, the agency received 359 total sets of comments, 43 opposed to the request. Two hundred ninety-four comments were filed in support of the request. 

The FMCSA says that “the exemption would not achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.”

If the Agency were to grant the exemption, drivers transporting agricultural commodities would be allowed six or more hours of driving time within the 150 air-mile exempt zones for the transportation of agricultural commodities, in addition to the 15 hours of driving time outside the zone. The Agency finds that allowing 21 or more hours of driving during a work shift would not likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the exemption,” the FMCSA said.

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