A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and a lot of good people load their truck with a horse. And now there’s a mandate in force, of course, and it’s coming from Mr. Fed.
The implementation of the Electronic Logging Device Mandate (ELD mandate) on Dec. 18, 2017, has raised numerous questions among horse-owners and other agricultural enthusiasts, particularly those who travel long distances to show animals in competition. The crux of concerns voiced by farm-owners and livestock haulers has been as much a matter of what will be exempted from the new rule as it what it actually states. Just how strictly the new law will be enforced is still anyone’s guess. Exemptions center about a 150-air mile radius and other agricultural issues.
More specific information is available online, and those still a little confused are invited to direct questions to Cliff Williamson at the American Horse Council, 202-296-4031. In the meantime, horse-owners and other ag-enthusiasts potentially affected are encouraged to contact their lawmakers and press for an enforcement delay.
What is the ELD?
Commercial drivers have long known the Electronic Logging Device as a machine placed within a vehicle to electronically record a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS), thus replacing the paper logbook formerly used to maintain compliance with regulations governing the hours of service a driver could operate. Historically, these devices were used almost exclusively by commercial over-the-road haulers, but in 2012 a bill signed by President Barack Obama called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century included a provision expanding the mandate to include more vehicles, many of which carry show animals over great distances.
Prior to passage, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed a petition seeking a delay in implementation as too many questions remained about enforcement. The mandate itself is federal, but enforcement and the checking of motor vehicles hauling livestock will undoubtedly occur in within the states themselves, many of which lack accompanying language matching the bill. And, many drivers are still trying to figure out whether they and their vehicles are involved or not.
“We are concerned about numerous states issuing citations for the violations of non-existent state laws,” stated Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, in a release. “New regulations and amendments to old regulations promulgated by FMCSA since the last incorporation date for these states are not part of state law.”
Joe DeLorenzo, director of the FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, addressed these concerns, noting, “There are rules about the states under the program have to incorporate our rules, and how that works, this happens with every rulemaking out there … at this point, I can say that we’re looking at the petition and we are going to respond to it.”
In broad strokes, the ELD Rule applies to any motorized vehicles and drivers who were previously required to maintain RODS, which includes commercial or recreational buses, as well as those owned by entities domiciled in Canada and Mexico. Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period are exempt, as are those using driveaway-towaway vehicles where the vehicle itself is a commodity, and those vehicles manufactured prior to the model year 2000. This may, or may not, apply to farm families who haul horses and other livestock to national competitions. Drivers who use paper logs fewer than eight days out of every 30 are not required to install an ELD, meaning most drivers who operate within a 100-mile radius.
A pony in there somewhere
So, why are so many horse-traders making hay out of the new law?
Many of the vehicles used to transport horses are in fact commercial-grade and require the driver to possess a Commercial Driver’s License due to the weight of the truck and trailer.
The ELD itself synchronizes with the engine of the vehicle and keeps track of hours of service, logging drive time, vehicle speeds, routes and mandated rest periods as written for commercial drivers. Under standard ELD regulations, there are no provisions to account for traffic, fueling, or loading, meaning drivers can only operate 14 hours before being required to stop and rest for 10. And whereas this might make sense for an over-the-road trucker, horse families who share driving responsibilities between members while traveling cross-country to events such as rodeos find it downright inhibitive. The idea of being forced to sideline the horses within the trailer overnight alongside the interstate, as every driver in America has seen semis do, is concerning on many levels, not the least of which include the welfare of the animals.
And falling into the requirement of a Commercial Driver’s License isn’t particularly difficult. Any combination of vehicles with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more would qualify, meaning a large number of horse-haulers. Drivers hauling agricultural commodities, to include livestock, are exempt so long as they operate within 150 air-mile radius, but competitive animal showers often travel across states and exceed that distance many times.
In the meantime, agricultural activists across the U.S. are urging their members to voice their concerns, particularly those involving safety, to their elected officials, as they seek waivers.
“The AQHA [American Quarter Horse Association] and other livestock organizations are concerned about the regulation requiring 10 consecutive hours off duty and how it will affect the welfare of the animals being transported. Livestock industry guidelines recommend that drivers avoid stops when hauling livestock, as stopping for long periods of time would have a detrimental effect on the animals,” the AQHA stated in a media release.
“AQHA members are involved in showing, racing, ranching, rodeos and recreation,” AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines stated in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “We encourage the Department of Transportation to 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 ELDs and hours of service.”