Federal regulators will decide next month whether to grant an exemption from the 30-minute rest break to drivers hauling bees.
The petition for the exemption was filed Jan. 7 by the California Farm Bureau Federation, which requested that drivers hauling bees not have to take the 30-minute break in order to ensure a continuous flow of cool, fresh air to the hives on board, particularly in warm weather. The risk of prolonged heat exposure can harm or even kill the bees, which are often trucked around the nation to aid in pollination of key crops.
Andrea Fox, legislative policy analyst for governmental affairs, at the CFBF, said this is the first time the agency has filed a request for a waiver on behalf of bee-haulers. She said the agency was inspired to do so after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a similar exemption for livestock haulers last summer.
“Once our bee-keeping members saw that the livestock industry got an exemption, we started getting calls,” she said. “The guys who haul the bees say as long as the truck is moving, they’re fine. Stopping in a hot spot during the day puts them at risk. If they come to a standstill and reach a certain temperature, it can harm them or kill them. They also have a tendency to leave the hives. As soon as they’re stopped they’re out foraging.”
Fox said the state farm bureau discovered bees are not considered livestock by the Department of Transportation, even though they are considered livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hence the need for a separate exemption filing solely for honey-bees.
The bees will be on the move in February, which Fox said is a critical time for almond growers in the Golden Gate State.
While FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne declined comment on the California petition, he emphasized that all petitions are considered on a case-by-case basis. He added that all comments received are read and thoroughly considered.
The commenting period lasts for 30 days. OOIDA is expected to file comments in support of the exemption, on the principle that the 30-minute break requirement is impractical for all truckers.
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