Livestock producers have expressed concern regarding the latest transportation rule that was published last week. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provided updates to hauling protocols in an interim final rule. FMCSA has provided clarification for certain terms that are subject to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) has expressed some concern about how the definitions have been updated for agricultural commodities and livestock.
“For several years, USCA has specifically requested FMCSA provide clear, consistent regulatory definitions for transporters of live animals and/or beef. Both are highly perishable commodities, and the lack of clarity surrounding these definitions has held up numerous drivers over the years facing errant roadside enforcement,” USCA Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker said in a news release. “The interim final rule issued today actually made current HOS regulations stricter, as it excludes frozen foods from current exemptions. There is no way for a driver to prove that a load they are carrying in a refrigerated truck is NOT frozen without risking rejection of the load by breaking the seal and opening the boxed meat.”
USCA points out that the updated definitions for ‘non-processed food’ create an opportunity for inconsistent enforcement. FMCSA declares ‘non-processed food’ to be “food commodities in a raw or natural state and not subjected to significant post-harvest changes.” At the same time, the interim rule acknowledges the difficulty in determining when a commodity is no longer considered a ‘non-processed food.’
USCA’s Transportation Committee indicated it will be formulating a formal response to the latest transportation rule in hopes of getting better clarification. The interim final rule is set to affect all drivers that are hauling boxed beef and trim. “As a producer or livestock hauler, you cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while these discussions are happening. Get the word out to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and help us build a better business environment for independent livestock haulers and producers,” said Hilker.