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Why are livestock haulers exempt from some safety regulations?

If you drive on Missouri roadways, you must share the road with large commercial vehicles whose drivers often make long hauls. The dangers of driver fatigue in long-haul truck drivers are very real, which is why federally mandated safety measures intended to limit the hours that truck drivers can spend on the road, as well as electronic logging of on-duty hours in order to keep drivers objectively accountable, are in place. The purpose of these measures is to keep you and all motorists, including truck drivers, safe on Missouri highways and beyond. However, Successful Farming reports that livestock haulers are exempt from some of these regulations, potentially putting lives at risk on the roadways.

A controversial new regulation went into effect last year requiring owners of commercial vehicles to equip them with electronic logging devices. The purpose of the technology is to track a truck driver's on-duty hours more accurately than the paper logs that drivers filled out in the past. In the interest of reducing accidents caused by driver fatigue, federal law requires that a trucker can only drive for 14 hours at a time before he or she must take a break for a minimum of 10 hours. The hope has been that mandatory ELD implementation would prevent drivers from inaccurately logging hours, whether with willful intent to defraud or by honest human error. 

However, livestock haulers are exempt from some of the safety measures involving ELD implementation and hours of service laws thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Board and other industry associations. They claim that hours of service regulations have the potential to harm the animals that the drivers haul because during mandated 10-hour breaks exposure to extreme weather conditions of heat or cold may affect the creatures' health. The argument has been effective at delaying ELD implementation, gaining ELD waivers and special hours of service exemptions for livestock haulers.

Industry associations have also lobbied to increase the number of hours that those transporting live animals may spend on the road before they must take a break, from 14 to 16. The rationale behind this campaign is that livestock haulers have a better safety record than other long-haul drivers, accounting for less than 1 percent of total crashes despite making up 6 to 7 percent of the long-haul truckers on the road. 

However, even if these statistics are accurate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that truck-related fatalities have been on the rise for the past few years, not only in Missouri but nationwide as well. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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