BILLINGS – Montana’s livestock industry is praising the recently passed legislation funding the government through the remainder of fiscal year 2019 because included in the new spending bill is a delay of enforcing electronic logging device rules for livestock haulers until Sept 30.
But those in the livestock industry say it’s a short-term fix that needs a permanent solution and for good reason.
“We’re dealing with a perishable product versus a non-perishable product,” said Ty Thompson, cattle sales manager for the Combined Competitive Markets of Billings.
“If we don’t get this in place and we have the same rules as a non-perishable product, then we’re going to end up having teams of drivers or drop points and that’s going to add to the freight costs immensely,” he continued. “Of course, that trickles right down to the producers and that means less value for your cattle.”
Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester agrees and says the permanent exemption can happen one of two ways: Working with the Department of Transportation on new rules or through an act of Congress.
“We’ll be pushing for a Congressional solution to this moving forward,” said Sen. Tester. “I think it’s entirely possible. But at the very least, we should be able to get the Department of Transportation to get a rule that works for livestock haulers and keeps our roads safe.”
The livestock industry says the restrictive hours-of-service rules must be included in the final rules.
“It’s a little bit of a frustration here at the auctions, but the bigger frustration for like the video cattle that deliver in the country,” said Thompson. “Because as you well know, there could be five or six hours of sitting time which they call part of the workday that takes away from your drive time.”
“So, we need to extend that work day and drive time because it’s really going to affect these cattle that are sold in the country like on video auctions and such,” he added.
The livestock industry is encouraged to submit comments to the Department of Transportation on this issue by March 8. They can do so on the federal government website.
-Russell Nemetz reporting for the Montana Ag Network