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Safety advocates worry over HOS exemptions for livestock haulers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers, but it has long provided exemptions for truckers in the agricultural industry. Pennsylvania residents should know that many safety advocates are worried about the effect of these exemptions. In particular, the exemptions may be allowing livestock haulers to work unreasonably long hours and become drowsy at the wheel.

The exemptions began with the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, which said that agricultural truck drivers do not need to follow HOS regulations during the harvest season so long as they remain in a 100 air-mile radius of their pickup spots. In 2012, that radius was expanded to 150 air miles. Truckers did not have to record their work hours unless they intended to leave that radius.

A more drastic exemption was made in 2017. The FMCSA now says that agricultural truckers need not record their work hours until they are actually outside of the radius. Safety advocates argue that this means law enforcement and regulatory agencies can never know how long agricultural truckers are working or how many breaks they take within the radius.

Advocates in the agricultural industry pushed for such exemptions. For example, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association point to the inconvenience that mandatory breaks and other HOS regulations would cause for livestock.

Regardless of what the rules are, some truckers may act negligently on the road. When truck accidents involve negligence, those who are injured through little or no fault of their own can think about filing third-party insurance claims. In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs can be compensated if they are deemed less than 51 percent at fault. Since negotiating a settlement can be tough, however, victims are advised to retain legal counsel.

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