Last month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) temporarily suspended its federal hours-of-service regulations, a move that is unprecedented in the history of the country. These regulations, which govern how many hours a truck driver can work over a certain period of time, have been suspended in response to the nationwide coronavirus outbreak.
Hours-of-service regulations were put in place back in 1938 by the FMCSA, the federal agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry and reducing the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
Tired truck drivers are less likely to react to changing road conditions and are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, significantly increasing the risk of devastating truck collisions. To help reduce accidents caused by highway fatigue, truck drivers who are transporting goods are normally subject to the following hours-of-service regulations:
- Truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour workday
- Drivers must take 10 consecutive hours off duty after either driving 11 consecutive hours or after a 14-consecutive-hour workday
- Drivers must take sleeper berth breaks every 8 hours or less for at least 30 minutes
- Drivers may not drive more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days; a 7/8-day period begins after the driver takes at least 34 consecutive hours off duty
Panic and concern from the coronavirus outbreak have been amplified due to shortages of food, consumer goods, and essential medical supplies caused by “panic buying” across the country.
In order to ensure that goods are reaching hospitals and stores in ample time, the FMCSA has suspended its federal hours-of-service safety regulation in an Emergency Declaration, stating that “motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief.”
According to the Declaration, hours-of-service regulations are suspected for trucks transporting the following:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
- Items needed for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, etc.)
- Food and water for grocery stores
- Equipment and supplies necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19, as well as those necessary to provide assistance with these services
- Those designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Those necessary to to provide medical or other emergency services
Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order that will remain in effect until at least April 26. Under the order, residents should stay home and only leave if it is for “critical activities.” such as getting food, water, or medication.
If you do have to leave your home during this time for essential reasons, remember that it’s incredibly important to take extra precautions behind the wheel. There will be many more truck drivers on the road who are working hard to bring necessary supplies to areas with shortages amid the pandemic.
Because of the hours-of-service suspension, there is also a higher chance that you may be sharing the road with a tired or fatigued truck driver. We want everyone to stay safe, so that means everyone must do their part. Motorists, make sure to keep an eye out for signs of drowsy drivers, such as swerving, drifting across lanes, or tailgating.
Driving may be second-nature to you, but you must always stay vigilant when you’re behind the wheel. Never rely completely on the acts of other motorists or truck drivers. Instead, always stay on the defensive and be ready to make any last-minute maneuvers needed to possibly avoid a collision.
If you need assistance after being injured, turn to the legal team at Klein Frank for help protecting your rights. Our skilled personal injury attorney will look at the details of your unique situation, determine fault, and gather the evidence needed to help you receive a full financial recovery.
Contact Klein Frank at (303) 448-8884 to schedule your free, personalized case review. If you are social distancing during COVID-19, we are providing virtual consultations and remote legal services for our clients.