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Could new federal trucking rules impact livestock hauler safety?

In December, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation implemented a federal mandate requiring truckers to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their vehicles. The devices track and share truckers' driving records. The data ELDs generate can also help inform fleet management.

Up until now, livestock haulers have been exempt from this regulation. But that's set to change. Federal regulators have announced they want livestock haulers to begin tracking their working hours using ELDs as well. The repealed exemption has many livestock haulers concerned.

So what's the harm in installing a small tracking device that saves you the effort of filing paperwork to deliver the same information? Livestock haulers argue there are a couple serious detriments in the plan.

Not all truckers are created equal.

The law limits the amount of time a trucker can be at work in a given day-maxing out at 14 working hours and 11 hours on the road. Once a trucker hits that limit, they are required to pull over and rest for 10, uninterrupted hours. This rule may sound like a good thing. And if your cargo is non-perishable, it is. But if you're hauling live animals, this restriction can pose a real problem.

Let's say you're delivering a herd of cattle to a destination 10 hours away. While on the road, you encounter heavy traffic, which slows you down. By the time you hit the 11-hour mark, you're still 25 miles away. If you stop your vehicle for 10 hours, the animals may overheat and die. In addition, you need to find a safe, clean space to store the animals to avoid spreading diseases.

Such obstacles are not accounted for under this regulation.

Potential impact on traffic safety

Many livestock haulers are concerned that enforcing strict time limits on their trips may lead these truckers to engage in dangerous driving behavior. If a trucker hit a traffic jam and is now running late to reach their destination on time, they may drive fast or recklessly in order to avoid the risk of their cargo perishing overnight. Some project that this regulation will actually lead to an increase in truck crashes.

Livestock haulers contend that the restrictions imposed by ELDs are unreasonable for transporting livestock. When live cargo is concerned, there needs to be flexibility to account for unforeseen bumps in the road.

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