NOT WORTH THE RISK
Unlicensed horse carriers could bring myriad of problems
By: Frank Angst
FOR ALL the care most horse owners put into their Thoroughbreds at the farm and the track, some are willing to cut corners when it comes to transportation.
Top horse carriers say using unlicensed carriers for the hauling of horse is a particularly risky way to save a few dollars. William Barry, owner of W.J. Barry Horse Transportation in Wilton, Connecticut, and chairman of the National Horse Carriers Association, said using horse carriers without the proper licensing can expose the horse owner to theft or loss while potentially endangering the Thoroughbred’s safety.
Barry noted companies without the proper licensing typically use drivers who do not log their hours to ensure safety standards. He said these drivers typically do not have the same amount of driving experience overall or specific experience in driving Thoroughbreds offered by drivers for license companies.
Equipment for unlicensed carriers may not be on the same level as a licensed carrier. Equipment that is subpar can result in the horse using energy to stay on balance, which could result in a tired horse that will be unprepared for competition. Barry noted that unlicensed haulers typically do not stop at weigh stations and do not keep records of the horses they are hauling.
In part because owners are looking to save more money in the poor econdy and in part because owners do not realize that not all horse carriers are equal. Barry said owners are hiring unlicensed driver.
Commercial horse carrier should have licensing from the U.S. Depart of Transportation (USDOT) and its branch, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for all trucks hauling a trailer of 10,000 pounds or more between states. Typically, any horse trailer that holds there or more horses would be required to have this licensing to haul other people’s horses. The transportation of horses across state lines by a for-hire company is regulated by the USDOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Some states may require carriers operating within a state to register with that state’s public utilities commission. If you are looking for a qualified carrier, Barry said it is important to find out the USDOT number and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstartion number, commonly called the motor carrier or MC number. Barry said any company that is advertising to haul other people’s Thoroughbreds should readily have a motor carrier number available for any potential customer. The customer can double-check these numbers on the USDOT website, and the numbers should be listed on company trucks.
“It’s a higher standard and it does a couple of things,” Barry said, “One, they have proper liabity and property insurance and they must have cargo insurance. Those would be the two things that kick in there. What we’re seeing a lot of are people with pickup trucks and gooseneck trailers – you can find them on the Internet dime a dozen – advertising to transport horses. You’ll find the majority of them, say 70%, will have no markings on the truck.”
Marshall Watchinski, of Pure Pleasure Horse Transport in Seymour, Missouri, points out that licensed carriers are required to have $750,000 in insurance. While this insurance does not cover the horses being hauled, it ensures the horse owner will not face liability in case of an accident.
Barry said drivers for licensed carriers are regularly screened for drugs and alcohol and under health screening. Licensed drivers are required to keep a log book and to avoid potential problems of driving while tired, are restricted in the number of hours they can drive.
“If you’re operating a commercial vehicle, the operator must have a medical certificate that he’s physically fit to drive the vehicle. The second thing he must have is a log book. In the government’s eyes, you can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour span,” Barry said. “If you put two drivers in a truck, you can add to those hours but the vehicle must have a cab for sleeping – it can’t be a pick-up truck.”
Barry believes most people who hire unlicensed drivers are either trying to save a few dollars or they are not aware of the licensing requirements and the reasons of those licensing requirements. Because unlicensed drivers do not face some of the safety requirements of licensed carriers, they typically can offer their services for less money.
“They typically don’t have the overhead that I would have or other licensed operators would have. Staying up to date- all of that costs money. That’s part of it,” Barry said. “Part of it is I think some people don’t realized what they’re into. They go on the Internet and see a lot of different people on there and they don’t realize the differences, they see them all as equal.
Customers can look up the safety records of all licensed carriers through the USDOT website at www.dot.gov and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. Members receive the latest safety information compiled by the government and can update their own training. Also, this site can be used to verify a company’s MC number.
Besides UDOT licensing, groups like the National horse Carriers Association and the American Horse Carriers Association work to ensure drivers receive specific training in hauling horses. They provide updates and pool information to allow each member to improve service.
“Our organization is set up to promote safe horse transportation,” Barry said. “Our members have been doing it for a few years. We discuss safe operation procedures in our meetings. All have the proper DOT numbers and follow the safety guidelines. You’re better off if you have people that know the horse hauling the horses.
Sources: Frank Angst
Senior Writer at Thoroughbred Times.
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