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Safety exemptions for livestock haulers may lead to crash risks

Drivers in California should know that commercial truck accident rates are going up across the nation. The number of truck occupant fatalities rose from 725 to 841 between 2016 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When pedestrians and occupants of motor vehicles are included, the number rose from 4,369 to 4,761.

In the effort to cut down on fatigue-related accidents, which are partly to blame for the rise, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandated in December 2017 that all commercial trucks install electronic logging devices. However, livestock haulers were exempt from the mandate.

It was the latest in a line of agricultural driver exemptions dating back to the FMCSA's National Highway System Designation Act of 1995. In 2017, the FMCSA made revisions to this act as well. For example, agricultural haulers operating within a 150 "air mile" radius of their pickup spots are exempt from hours-of-service rules. Originally, haulers had to track all their hours, even within the radius, if they intended to leave it at one point.

Experts claim that further HOS exemptions will leave law enforcement and regulatory agencies unable to track agricultural haulers' hours and break times in exempted zones. The FMCSA is considering relaxing other regulations, though, including short-haul limits and 30-minute break requirements.

The victim of a truck accident may want to hire an attorney because a successful claim will likely depend on knowing where and how a trucker violated federal rules. The attorney could hire third-party investigators for assistance; they could gather the police report, truck maintenance records, work logs and other evidence. Legal counsel could also bring in medical experts to determine the extent of injuries. The victim can leave negotiations to their attorney, litigating if a settlement cannot be reached.

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