polo collar New federal regs worry truckers
New federal safety regulations requiring truckers to install Electronic Logging Devices in their rigs by Dec.
The new regulations taking effect later this year require truckers to install the ELDs, as they are commonly known in the industry, in an effort to track hours truckers spend on the road and improve highway safety. The electronic devices would replace the long used and frequently abused paper logbooks truckers have relied on for decades.
But local independent truckers, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the South Dakota Truckers Association say they are opposed to the new regulations based on cost, extreme distances truckers face doing their jobs in rural America and, for livestock haulers, the perishable nature of their cargo.
Myron Rau, president of the 80 year old South Dakota Trucking Association, which represents 560 member companies in the state, said his organization opposed the new federal mandate passed two years ago.
“We were against it because we hate mandates,” Rau said from his Sioux Falls office.
While not opposed to measures designed to improve highway safety, at its annual meeting last month in Rapid City, the South Dakota Stockgrowers adopted a policy asking the state’s congressional delegation to help exempt livestock haulers from the new federal regulation.
“This rule is unrealistic for livestock haulers; these truckers for whom the clock starts ticking as soon as they get in the truck,” Stockgrowers Executive Director Sylvia Christen told the Journal. “They have to get there to the site, wait for loading to occur, and in western South Dakota, it’s a long way to anywhere.”
Federal transport regulations limit truck drivers to 14 hour days, with a maximum 11 hours of driving, and 10 hours of rest. When electronic devices signal a driver that it’s time to stop, doing so could put livestock in jeopardy, Christen explained.
“Hauling livestock is a different situation than what occurs with some other types of trucking,” she said. “When you’re hauling livestock, you’re not hauling boxes that can sit by the side of the road. When you have cattle on, they are a perishable item and those drivers need to be able to travel for long enough periods, sometimes unpredictably, in order to get those animals somewhere safe where they can be cared for.”
‘When I need a nap, I take a nap’
Larry Phillips of Phillips Trucking in Owanka has been making a living in his family trucking business since he joined his father shortly after graduating from high school. Today, eight family members, including his wife, two brothers, a nephew, and a sister in law, stay busy year round hauling cattle, hay, equipment, gravel and asphalt throughout the region.
“I think there will be an exemption for livestock haulers, but I don’t know how it will affect us,” he said. “When I need a nap, I take a nap no matter what the feds say.”
Phillips noted that “one size doesn’t fit all” in the trucking industry and that the realities of livestock hauling aren’t taken into account by federal regulators.
“This time of year, we’ll send a truck to Montana, meet a buyer at a certain truck stop, go out in the country and load calves,” he explained. “When we get to a ranch, they’re never ready, and we may sit there for three or four hours while they sort cattle, and the clock is running.”
Once loaded, a trucker may then have to drive his on the hoof cargo hundreds of miles to a packing plant, a feed lot, or the new owner’s pasture.
“You have to consider that you don’t want livestock on the trailer any longer than they need to be,” Phillips said. “And I have to do all that work in 14 hours. So if I start at 6 in the morning, I have to be done by 8 at night.”
Phillips said he hoped that President Donald Trump, a man known for his distaste of federal mandates, would work to quash the new ELD regulation when he learned of its potential negative impact on independent truckers.
“I’m hoping they just throw it all out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rapid City’s Tom Sires of Tom Sires Trucking said he wasn’t as optimistic as Phillips that the federal mandate would be abolished.
“Everybody said this was a problem two years ago when they passed it, but they kicked the can down the road,” Sires said of industry response to the measure. “Now, they’re clamping down. “For us, I’m afraid it’s too little too late.”
Sires agreed that the requirements, which will be documented by the ELDs, aren’t realistic in the nation’s rural areas, where lengthy windshield time is the norm.
As a case in point, he noted that on Tuesday, the Phillip Sale Barn had 8,000 head of cattle on the block. When he arrived about 4 in the afternoon, there were 30 semis sitting in the lot, waiting for their consignments.
“You show up at the sales barn at 4 or 5 in the evening, wait for the sale to conclude, then you wait for the buyer to pay, you wait for brand papers to be processed, and then you wait in line to load up,” he explained. “You may not leave that sale barn until 1 or 2 in the morning, and sleeping is not an option, because you’re always waiting in line.
“Then, once you’re loaded, you actually have to go to work and drive 300 to 1,000 miles to Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma or Texas,” Sires added. “If you buy a $100,000 load of cattle, you don’t want them sitting by the side of the road. If you stop and sleep for 10 hours as required by law, you’ll have a bunch of dead calves in your trailer.
“Today a calf can run $850. If you lose a couple, you’ve worked that day for free because you’re going to be held responsible for them.”
Sires, who has a wife and child at home and another baby on the way, worries that the ELD mandate and increased enforcement may signal a career change in his future.