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AQHA Responds to ELD Mandate

The Department of Transportation’s announced 90-day waiver of pending Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirements that would affect horse haulers has mobilized the horse and livestock industry to request a delay and closer examination.

Trailers of the East Coast/Flickr/CC

While not actually a new development, news of the coming requirement by December 18, 2017 that all commercial vehicles — which includes some but not all trucks and horse trailers — carry an Electronic Logging Device, or ELD, shook the horse world last week when lobbying group Protect the Harvest began circulating a now-viral Facebook post. We dug into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website and regulations to present the facts to readers last week. The MAP-21 bill that brings these changes about was enacted in 2012, but specific requirements for agricultural and livestock haulers, including horse trailers, were not widely known.

That’s the argument that the American Quarter Horse Association, or AQHA, makes in an open letter to the FMCSA: due to the administration’s lack of outreach to livestock industry stakeholders, the AQHA maintains that compliance with the ELD mandate will not be possible by the deadline. The AQHA is requesting a one-year enforcement delay to allow time for horse owners to become educated about ELD requirements and for the FMCSA to find more industry-appropriate solutions to ELD requirements for livestock haulers.

Of note is that the FMCSA has extended that December 18, 2017 deadline by 90 days for transporters of agricultural commodities, with the extension announced on November 20, 2017 — a full week before the ELD requirement even appeared on most horse owners’ radars.

While none of the actual classifications for commercial motor vehicles are changing, the crux of the issue is the enforcement via the ELD — the device itself records hours behind the wheel, which can then be accessed by enforcement officers during a traffic stop or truck pull-off. Many of the equine professionals and horse haulers on the highway today are not aware that their rigs are considered commercial motor vehicles that must be in compliance with the coming regulation; especially for individuals who haul their horses frequently on long trips between horse shows, the need to comply with Hours of Service (HOS) restrictions will cause many headaches. (See our previous piece linked above for more definitions of who is a commercial driver and what is a commercial motor vehicle.)

According to commercial motor vehicle regulations, commercial drivers may only be behind the wheel for 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and then they must stop for a mandatory 10 hours of rest. For equine and other livestock haulers, this presents a major problem if there is stock on the trailer. It’s not always possible or prudent to load and unload horses at designated rest areas if a driver is “grounded” for a mandatory rest period.

The AQHA’s open letter emphasizes that the equine industry pushback to the ELD requirements is due to a lack of outreach on the part of the FMCSA. The sought one-year enforcement delay would both give the equine industry time to familiarize itself with ELD requirements and help industry leaders work with the FMCSA to reach a more agriculture and livestock-friendly set of guidelines to regulate commercial motor vehicles on the highway.

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

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