Canadian livestock groups are calling for added flexibility in Hours of Service rules, arguing that electronic logging devices (ELDs) don’t account for realities that affect animal welfare.
Industry groups appearing before several sessions of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food have referred to challenges that occur when truckers run out of driving hours before they can deliver livestock to final destinations or designated feed and water sites along the way.
“In my estimation, ELD and livestock should not go in the same sentence,” said Andrew Livingston, who operates a facility known as The Barn outside Thunder Bay, Ont. Close to 250,000 animals are fed and watered there every year.
But in many ways, loads of livestock are governed by the same rules as dry freight. That means livestock haulers can run out of allowable driving hours when they’re just an hour away from his facility, officially requiring them to park equipment and head off duty — no matter how stressed animals in the trailer might be.
No flexibility with ELDs
While allowable driving hours didn’t officially change when ELDs were introduced, the groups argued that much of the challenge occurs in the way every minute is tracked.
“It used to be paper-based. Your truck’s loaded, now you mark, now you move,” said Corlena Patterson, executive director of the Canadian Sheep Federation. “The ELDs will kick in at 5 mph (8 km/h) and a truck in an auction barnyard or feed lot yard may make multiple stops at multiple pens. But each of those stops … starts your time.”
Several industry representatives called on Canadian regulators to align with U.S. rules that exempt commercial livestock haulers from Hours of Service rules within 150 miles (240 km) of departure and destination sites.
Those rules recognize the delays that tend to take place early and late in a trip, Patterson said.
Livingston, for example, said it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to load cattle onto a trailer.
“Our cargo, unlike freight, has unique temperaments that can lead to challenges and delays in getting the animals loaded or unloaded,” said Scott Ross, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Flexibility for humane transport
“The concern farmers and ranchers have with electronic logging devices is not about Hours of Service but about recognizing the unique accommodations and flexibility required for the humane transport of animals.”
The lack of flexibility places drivers in a difficult position, said Dr. Raymond Reynen, past president of the Canadian Association of Bovine Veterinarians.
“Either the drivers comply with the Hours of Service regulations by going off duty, or they do what they know is right for the animal welfare and get the cattle to their planned unloading site.”
One of the challenges is that animal trailers are passively ventilated, and only produce enough airflow for the animals when moving down the road. That airflow stops when a truck is parked.
“This,” Reynen said, “is a threat to animal welfare.”
There is also a public relations consideration. There is a concern about “potential negative public reaction” when haulers are forced to pull into traditional rest stops and animals appear to be distress, Patterson said, referring to other motorists who might approach the truck driver.
“Do we want the truck driver to say, ‘Well, the government makes me do it?’”
Wellbeing of animals … and bees
“This is not merely a logistical consideration but a fundamental aspect of animal welfare. The wellbeing of these animals must be at the forefront transcending the mere movement of goods, ensuring that the journey from farm to market honors the life and integrity of the livestock we’re entrusted to look after,” she said.
The concerns aren’t limited to those who haul large animals.
“When trucks hauling bees are stopped, the bees become a risk to the public in that general area — particularly if they’re stopped in the middle of the day and it’s hot,” said Ron Greidanus of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission.
Hives need to be shipped for contract pollination and when moving them back and forth to warmer climates.
Regional slaughterhouse closures
Compounding matters with larger animals is the closure of regional slaughterhouses, requiring the livestock to be shipped further afield.
“We support an agricultural system that promotes safe, local production and slaughter and that doesn’t rely on hauling animals cross-country multiple times during their short lives,” said Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada. “We don’t support a system that prioritizes the current supply chain structure over the welfare of hundreds of millions of animals that are raised and slaughtered for food.”
“We are not seeking a blanket exemption from ELDs or Hours of Service, but instead for flexibility in enforcement,” said the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s Ross. “We cannot leave drivers in difficult situations where doing what’s best for animals would see them fall out of compliance with Hours of Service regulations.”
While Hours of Service regulations allow for additional driving time in adverse conditions or emergencies, it’s unclear if this would include animal welfare considerations, he said, suggesting that could be addressed through guidance rather than an outright regulatory change.
“We don’t want to be at the mercy of interpretation. Truck drivers have to know what to expect. They can’t be told it works in one place and not another,” said dairy farmer Pierre Lampron.
CTA holds firm on ELDs
In a written submission, the Canadian Trucking Alliance has argued against exemptions to Hours of Service rules or mandated ELD requirements.
“The Hours of Service rules have not changed, just the means of how they are tracked for compliance,” CTA senior vice-president – policy, Geoff Wood, wrote.
The alliance said it met with livestock carriers before ELD regulations were implemented, and said no operational challenges were identified, other than for those who purchase truck transportation services.
“None of the so-called disruptions to the supply chain anticipated by detractors at the start of the ELD process ever materialized in any sector – at least not to those that were complying with the Hours of Service regulations.”
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