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New regulations pose challenges for livestock haulers

New regulations pose challenges for livestock haulers


On January 1 of this year, provinces and territories began enforcing amendments to the Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations. These regulations aim to address driver fatigue by mandating the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), which automatically record driving time, as opposed to allowing drivers to log their hours spent on-duty in a paper logbook. The ELDs ensure that drivers do not exceed their daily limit of 14 hours of on-duty time. In an email statement sent to rabble.ca, Transport Canada claimed that “the regulatory flexibilities that drivers had while maintaining a paper record of duty status continue to be available to drivers tracking their hours using ELDs.”

However, members of the livestock industry maintain that the regulations lack needed flexibility. A January 16 press release from the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) decried the new regulations, reading that “No provisions have been made for the unique circumstances that may arise when transporting livestock.” In an interview with rabble, CCA General Manager Ryder Lee explained that the switch from paper logbooks to ELDs may pressure drivers to “hustle harder” out of fear that they will incur fines for exceeding the limit of hours spent on-duty. 

Currently, Hours of Service rules limit drivers to 14 hours of on-duty time per day – that’s 14 hours to load and unload livestock, navigate poor weather conditions, and make sure the animals are given food and water, alongside time spent on the road. Of the remaining 10 hours a day, drivers must allocate eight consecutive hours to pull over and rest, which might not be possible with live cargo. 

“We’re worried that that’s going to put drivers in a tough situation. And then if they’re in that kind of a spot, do they have to take their rest in a time and space that is not great for their load,” Lee explained. 

If a driver faces delays in loading animals, crossing the US/Canada border, or encounters poor weather conditions, they may max out their on-duty time and have to choose between pulling over to go off-duty or incurring a fine from Transport Canada, he pointed out. 

As such, the CCA is advocating for exemptions from recording on-duty time similar to those in the US, where hours of service rules are not applied once a driver is within 150 air miles (i.e., nautical miles) of their destination. Per the CCA’s press release, “This exemption provides the flexibility needed to deliver live animals without compromising animal welfare and has not compromised driver or public safety.” According to Lee, the exemption would only be used in emergency situations, when unforeseen circumstances result in drivers having to spend extra time on-duty.

In its email to rabble, Transport Canada highlighted some existing exemptions to the regulations that may be relevant to livestock haulers. For example, drivers who face adverse conditions may increase their driving time by two hours if the trip could have been completed under normal conditions; similarly, on- and off-duty time requirements do not apply for drivers trying to “reach a destination that provides safety in an emergency.” But these exemptions do not specifically include animal welfare emergencies, which is why the CCA is advocating for recognition that animal welfare also constitutes an emergency.

Transport Canada claims that Hours of Service regulations help combat driver fatigue, but fatigue may not be entirely caused by spending long consecutive hours on-duty – drivers’ erratic schedules may be a bigger contributor to fatigue-caused accidents. 

Jennifer Woods, an Alberta-based livestock handling expert, conducted a study on driving fatigue among livestock haulers in 2008. Her study found that 59 per cent of truck accidents between the hours of midnight and 9 a.m. 

“It wasn’t driver hours as much as it was the time of day,” she said. And while many workers can adjust to working regular night shifts, the livestock hauling industry often prevents drivers from establishing a set routine. “You get sleep one day, but you don’t get sleep the next day. And that’s the big, big challenge with livestock.”

Neither the CCA’s proposed solution of emergency exemptions nor the current Hours of Service Regulations addresses unpredictable working hours, but Woods agrees that the CCA proposal is a step in the right direction. Drivers cannot unload animals during their off-duty rest time because the loading and unloading process is the most stressful part of transit for animals, she explained. This means that when drivers pull over for mandatory rest time, the animals are kept in the truck. “You can’t leave those animals on the trailer for that long,” said Woods.

“Don’t get me wrong, we need driver times and drivers’ mandatory rest […] [But] these guys aren’t hauling potato chips, they’re hauling live animals,” she added.

Working more predictable hours would likely reduce fatigue, as drivers could become accustomed to a regular sleep cycle, but Woods and Lee do not believe that this is a feasible solution. 

“There’s way too many moving parts,” said Woods. For example, during warm weather, animals cannot be loaded or unloaded in the middle of the day as the heat will cause too much stress. The animals’ destination plays a role, too: slaughterhouses often kill animals early in the morning, requiring drivers to drive throughout the night, while an auction mart may not be able to receive animals until the afternoon, in which case a driver would have to drive through the morning. 

Lee pointed out that factors completely unrelated to livestock – such as road conditions, inspections at border crossings, and business’ opening hours – also contribute to erratic schedules. 

“All of a sudden you’re going to time out, and you may only be half an hour from where you can unload those animals and they can be done with their trip, you can be done with your day,” he said. Having more flexibility, then, would benefit both humans and animals in the event that a driver is forced to exceed their on-duty time limit.

Transport Canada and the CCA don’t typically work together – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the one responsible for overseeing animal transit, not Transport Canada. While this has made CCA’s advocacy work “a little frustrating,” Lee still feels optimistic that the two will come to a compromise. 

“It’s slow, but I think we’re making a reasonable case with a reasonable ask that is focused on livestock and animal welfare,” he said. 

For its part, Transport Canada wrote that “the department has had regular engagement with the livestock industry and continues to stand ready to work with them on any formal requests for specific regulatory relief.”

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