‘They aren’t a box of shoes’: Va. farmers concerned about Federal trucking rules

Capitol Connection

AMELIA COUNTY, Va. — Some of your newly elected lawmakers in Washington are trying to press pause on new rules for truckers who haul animals. 

Moving cattle is a big process. Roughly every two weeks, Jeremy Moyer, of Amelia County, sells cattle to folks in Pennsylvania. 

“We put together with other cows from the county to make a full load,” he explained. 

But a possible change for the truckers that carry the cattle has Moyer and other farmers concerned. 

“Sometimes you might need another 30 minutes to take good care of your animal,” Moyer said. “But if you have these strict rules that apply to all trucking and don’t treat livestock differently.”

Over the past few years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been implementing new rules for how long truckers can be on the road. Before, many truckers logged their hours with paper. As of Dec. 2017, they’re required to use an Electronic Logging Device that hooks up to a vehicle’s engine and starts clocking the time. Currently, the people who haul livestock are working under a temporary delay of the ELD requirements. Virginia Farm Bureau officials say drivers can work a total of 14 hours, 11 of those hours can be on the road. 

ELDs are supposed to make the roads safer by stopping drivers from being behind the wheel for too long. But Moyer says working with animals doesn’t fit the way the regulations are written.

“They aren’t a box of shoes,” he explained. “The trailers the cows are hauled on are ventilated and made to be moving and if you run out of time and have to stop, there’s no air conditioning in there, the air conditioning is moving.”

Farmers, including Moyer, sat down with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D – District 7) last month to talk about local agriculture issues. Since then, both she and Rep. Denver Riggleman (R – District 5) signed onto a letter to Congress, urging them to delay the ELD rules for another year so lawmakers and members of the agriculture industry can figure out the best way to handle this situation. Ben Rowe from the Virginia Farm Bureau says not delaying these rules for another year will impact you at home too. 

“If a farmer has to hire a second driver or has to find some other way to get these animals there within these restrictive ELD and hours of service rules, those additional costs are going to be passed to the consumer so that means higher prices at the grocery store,” he said. 

Rowe says senators may also create a working group to specifically look at this issue. 

Lawmakers will decide by end of the year whether or not to extend the delay in the ELD rule. 

Truck drivers protested the Federal rule change a few years ago, saying it might make it harder to do their jobs. 

Dale Bennett with Virginia Truckers Association agrees Congress should take a look at how the rules could be adjusted, but it must be done “without compensating highway safety.” 

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