The Biden Administration recently extended a waiver for commercial truckers from the Federal Hours of Service Regulation, and one ag group is very happy with the move. The Department of Transportation extension of its emergency order on hours of service affects the rules that limits how many hours a trucker can drive, how many hours they can work.
Michael Formica is the assistant vice president and general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council and says the extension is especially important for livestock haulers.
“For a livestock producer, if you’re hauling animals to market and you’ve been delayed along the way, you’ve been driving for 11 hours and you’re almost there, but you got another half an hour to go, you’ve run out of time and now you can’t finish your delivery. And so, they they’ve extended this emergency order to allow the drivers to continue to drive.”
Formica says the extension needed to be renewed on the heels of the initial COVID emergency relief offered.
“We knew we were going to have shortage of the drivers, we expected we might have plant disruptions as people became sick with COVID, and, of course, both of those things happened. COVID is continuing on, we’re seeing other supply chain disruptions, but yet the animals still need to be transported. They’re living things. You can’t simply pull over to the side of the highway and sleep overnight, either in the winter or in the summer, especially in the summer. They’ll overheat.”
Labor shortages continue to be a roadblock facing rural America, another reason the extension was important to agriculture.
“Every few months, we have to go back, and we have tried to convince the Department of Transportation of the importance of extending this. Not just transport the animals, mind you, but also, it’s important to be able to get feed to those animals. And in agriculture, your rural areas, we already have not enough employees, and so the entire economy has these labor shortages. Agriculture is really facing them, and especially agricultural trucking. It’s important that we have this so agriculture can continue and people can continue to eat and produce food.”
Formica says the extensions like this one typically last for a few months. Could there possibly be a permanent exemption?
“This one will expire at the end of February. They had asked that drivers who rely on this to drive extra hours to fill out a form and let FMCSA know, the department transportation know, because they’re trying to track how much it’s being utilized and what different sectors are utilizing it to see if there is a need to continue doing this.”
Source: NAFB News Service