While the CDL requirements and the ELD mandate are very confusing and frustrating issues, it is necessary that all members of the horse show community, professionals and non-pros alike, stay informed and united. Photo © Angie Proctor-Reichert

CDL – Crazy Darn Laws: Deciphering the CDL/EDL Requirements for the Horse Show Industry

Earlier this year, horse trainers and non-pros were likely involved in a bee-hive of gossip over the new transportation guidelines outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in one way or another. While the information about Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) has never changed, it did come to light for some people as it seemed that anyone traveling to shows with horses could be required to have an Electronic Logging Device (ELD). This initial mandate was extremely damaging to the horse show industry as it would limit the time and distance horses could be hauled and thus make traveling to long-distance horse shows financially unfeasible.

Thanks to the good people at ProtectTheHarvest.com, AQHA, APHA and other support groups and memberships, the pressure was put on the federal government agency, and a temporary waiver for requiring an ELD was established for hauling livestock which includes show horses. However, this bombshell did jar some people into acquiring their CDLs to abide by current laws not affected by the waiver. We spoke to people in the transportation industry and the show horse industry about their experience with this confusing and often frustrating legislation.

Drive Right

In the early months of the year, many drivers of horse trailers of 26,001 lbs which included a vehicle of 10,000 lbs or more were going to require a CDL regardless of whether that driver was a professional or a non-pro. Many horse show exhibitors came up in arms as this could include an amateur exhibitor towing a dually truck with three-horse living quarters. To top this off, FMCSA was also requiring anyone who was traveling with show horses to need a CDL as they considered show horses as an earner of prizes (which in their minds meant financial gain). Add insult to injury, if those same exhibitors were traveling more than 150 miles to a show, they would also require an ELD. People became irate and began to contact government officials, put pressure on their breed associations and showed their support to ProtectTheHarvest.com.

Thanks to the effort of every voice involved, the horse show industry got a reprieve…for now.

Dave Duquette, National Strategic Planner at ProtectTheHarvest.com explains, “There is no real postponement for requiring a CDL or ELD according to the FMCSA. There are, however, new guidelines on horse trailers. Non-Pros or Amateurs do not have to have a CDL or an ELD unless their home state requires them to have one. However, horse trainers are not so lucky.”

Duquette, who has been a horse trainer for over 25 years, has been a hero in the industry fighting for the rights of equine owners, trainers, breeders and haulers. “I started advocating for the horse industry politically in 2007. I started working for ProtectTheHarvest.com in 2013 full-time. I am also in charge of all the sponsorships in the horse industry for Protect The Harvest and Lucas Oil.”

Duquette explains how together with local members, ProtectTheHarvest.com and senators across the country are banding together to write a new bill that will give livestock haulers a total reprieve from the ELD mandate. However, this is going to be a long time coming.

“The problem currently is that road crews are just as confused as drivers are about the laws. They do not know how to interpret them. Right now, it seems as if they are giving warnings but tickets and fines are not unheard of,” Duquette says.

Don’t Bluff

Horse trainers require a CDL based on the federal law. Each state also has their statutes regarding a commercial driver’s license, so it is necessary to check those guidelines as well. AQHA.com briefly outlines the federal CDL requirements as a “vehicle used on highways in interstate commerce to transport passengers of property; used by you or your business with the intent to make a profit in furtherance of a commercial enterprise.”

Duquette explains that it is more complicated than just posting a “Not for Hire” sign on a rig, “Trainers used to get away with that. Now, many are trying to bluff the officers when they get pulled over by saying they (the horses) are all their private livestock. However, if they (the officers) can look you up on a computer and find a website, Facebook page or advertisement for your professional business as a trainer, you are considered ‘in furtherance of commerce’ and can be fined.”

Study Hard

Future professional farrier and horse trainer Alex Sidwell of Zanesville, Ohio, while celebrating his recent engagement to multiple Congress Champion Dakota Diamond Griffith, decided along with his father-in-law-to-be, Sid Griffith, to obtain his Commercial Drivers License earlier this year. He explains, “I began the process in early April while I was finishing my latest semester of farrier school. It wasn’t a hard process, but it was somewhat intense. Sid and I were lucky that we have knowledge of engines and are mechanically savvy, to begin with.”

While the process only took Sidwell and Griffith a few months to complete, they used a variety of resources for study throughout each step. “I started by getting the manual and reading the overview for the Class A license. I also downloaded an audio thing from audible.com that outlined what I needed to know.”

Technologically astute, Sidwell also utilized YouTube videos.

“To get my CDL permit, I completed the written test which was like 20 questions per section, and you couldn’t get more than five wrong. Then, I had to complete a physical exam,” Sidwell explains.

“The YouTube videos were helpful in outlining the whole walk around thing. I would watch the same ones four or five times. I would stop it, write it (the information) down in my own words, so when I came to my test, it would sound like me, not a robot. It was beneficial on test day.”

Like When You Were 16

Sidwell and Griffith showed up to their testing site approximately 60 minutes before the building opened and examined their testing vehicle. “It was such a good idea,” Sidwell clarifies, “We were prepping and looking to see where everything was before the test. We had permission to look at it.

After the initial walkaround ground test, Sidwell and Griffith then had to proceed to the driving section. “I began with the on-site driving test which made me weave through cones and back up the rig. Once I passed that, they took me on the road where I had to demonstrate maneuvering in traffic, shifting properly and other things.”

“When the tester said those magic words, ‘you passed’ I breathed a sigh of relief,” Sidwell says. “It was a lot more studying, but it was a lot easier when I was 16,” he laughs.

Stay Informed and Get Involved

While the CDL requirements and the ELD mandate are very confusing and frustrating issues, it is necessary that all members of the horse show community, professionals and non-pros alike, stay informed and united.

Duquette describes how to get involved through ProtectTheHarvest.com, “Protect The Harvest founded by Forrest Lucas (owner of Lucas Oil) has quickly become the most effective organization of its kind, advocating against all the animal rights and environmental groups that do not want us eating animal protein, riding horses or even owning pets, etc. We do this through legislative efforts, lawsuits and informing the public and the people who will be affected. The ELD mandate will affect the whole country and our food supply in the worst way we have ever seen, PTH and Lucas Oil have been the one constant voice that says this mandate should be voluntary and not forced on every driver, just because the trucking giants need it for themselves.”

Author Bio: Maureen West
An AQHA Professional Horseman, Mo West currently lives in Tracy, California. Formerly a high school English teacher for over 15 years, she now pursues her passion for training, showing and coaching. She is an avid world traveler and loves boats and the water. Fishing is her second favorite activity, and she always has her beloved dog, Crash at her side whenever possible. Her most prominent supporter, Stephen Holmes and his two heeler pups, Boondocks and Huckleberry, are never too far behind and can often be seen working hard at significant horse shows across the country.