CONSORT, Alta. - Some would say they're the red-headed stepchildren of the trucking industry.Animal haulers are among the most regulated truckers on the highway, and they face a series of unique chall...
CONSORT, Alta. – Some would say they’re the red-headed stepchildren of the trucking industry.
Animal haulers are among the most regulated truckers on the highway, and they face a series of unique challenges. Just ask any livestock trucker who’s been responsible for getting a load of hogs through Manitoba in mid-January – or mid-July for that matter.
Beef industry consultant and humane transportation expert Tim O’Byrne has heard all about the trials and tribulations of livestock haulers. He offers courses in livestock transportation and time and time again herd haulers have complained to him about their lack of representation.
Now he hopes to change all that with the creation of a North America-wide livestock trucking association.
“I think that livestock truckers are poorly represented,” says O’Byrne. “They are the most visible players in the livestock industry because they’re always on the road. But they’re out of the loop in our industry because they’re always on the road trying to make a living.”
O’Byrne has been approached by truckers in Alberta on several occasions and asked to represent them. But he wants to take it one step further and include livestock haulers from coast-to-coast in Canada and the U.S.
“I want to start something low key. I don’t want any $50 memberships with a big convention in Chicago,” says O’Byrne. “I’m talking about a low-end annual membership and what you get for that is a newsletter printed on the cheapest paper money can buy.”
The association would tackle issues on a case-by-case basis, so members could see the results of the association’s efforts, one by one.
Already, O’Byrne has two pressing issues that need to be addressed.
One involves truckers hauling finished cattle to a processing plant in Hiram, Utah. Because of the strict Hours-of-Service regulations, these modern day cattle drives are forced to stop one hour from the plant. They have to go off-duty because they’ve reached their maximum hours and the result is more stress on a trailer of cattle.
“Legally, we can make it no problem. Everything is fine as far as the state of the animals on-board,” explains O’Byrne. “But the Utah Department of Transportation shuts them down just short of the plant because their log book will not allow them to go any further. Now we’ve got a load of live animals that have to wait over eight hours before they can move again when they’re only an hour from the packing plant.”
O’Byrne says the association will fight for an exemption for livestock haulers who are just short of their destination, for the good of the animals on-board.
Another problem that is plaguing these rolling arks is the lack of cleanout locations in all parts of the continent.
“A lot of the options for cleanout are being taken away simply because the packing plants and the auction markets don’t want to handle the waste manure,” says O’Byrne. “But who owns it? The trucker doesn’t own it. If he was hauling pallets of raspberries he wouldn’t get to keep the pallets, but when he’s hauling cattle – and manure can accumulate up to 2,000lb of pay weight – nobody in the chain will give him a place to clean out, and that’s not fair.”
Tough row to hoe
O’Byrne has been polling truckers to gauge how receptive they would be to joining his association, and so far, the results have been encouraging. But Betsy Sharples, executive director of the livestock transporter division of the Ontario Trucking Association, warns it won’t be easy to unite truckers across the continent.
“Conceptually speaking, I think it’s a good idea,” says Sharples.
“But, North America is a pretty big continent.
“Even in a province the size of Ontario it’s difficult to get full representation of all livestock transporters because of the nature of the industry. He certainly has a very daunting task ahead of him,” she adds.
She says it’s challenging to get the important role players in the industry to gather under one roof because most are so tied up with their operations.
“The people who are running the companies are the people who cannot be spared away from the operation for any length of time,” says Sharples. “Typically, the guy who owns the fleet is very, very involved in the operation.”
But O’Byrne plans to go ahead with his strategy, and he is already arranging to meet with members of the Animal Transport Association in Texas this fall for further discussions.
Meanwhile, he’s looking for feedback from livestock haulers. He can be reached at 403-577-3266. n