Truckers and shipping companies are racing to meet demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is understandable, but it is important that meeting demand does not come at the expense of your safety.
Despite The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) best efforts in implementing rules and regulations to avoid accidents and improve driver/vehicle safety, there’s been a 20% increase in the number of commercial truck accidents over the past decade. Thirteen percent of these crashes were directly related to driver fatigue.
In spite of the increase in crashes involving driver fatigue, FSMCA has recently issued an EXPANDED EMERGENCY DECLARATION which suspends the requirement that drivers limit their hours of service. The suspension went into effect on March 13 and will continue until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. That means for truckers and shipping companies who transport food, medical supplies, and items related to community safety, there are no limits to the hours a driver can go without rest.
The declaration specifically applies to Parts 390-399 of the Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, suspending many safety regulations that keep truckers and other drivers safe on the roads. This is the first time in American history that the FMCSA has issued a nationwide suspension of key safety rules.
FMCSA’s emergency declaration applies to commercial motor-vehicle operations providing direct assistance to emergency relief efforts supplying the demand for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for health care worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
- Equipment, supplies, and food for emergency restocking of stores;
- Persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19;
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes; and
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
The order lifts restrictions on how long a driver can be behind the wheel, however, it does provide protection for drivers who might be coerced by their employer to drive longer hours than is safe.
Under the declaration, “If the driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location. Once the driver has returned to the terminal or other location, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers.”
Knowing how to share the road safely with trucks is critical right now when more trucks than normal may be out on the roads and more drivers may be working long hours. Here are some simple things you can do to make sharing the road with large trucks safer:
- Use your blinker for all lane changes.
- Refrain from cutting a truck off or slowing down abruptly in front of a truck.
- Make sure you avoid blind spots and stay where trucks can see you.
- Avoid driving distracted.
- Stay off your phone.
- Keep a safe distance from trucks and make sure that you pass trucks with extreme caution.
Truck crashes can have deadly consequences and cause devastating injuries. Maintaining the rules of the road can help keep you safe in this time of crisis and in light of relaxed safety rules. If, however, despite your best efforts to avoid a collision, you have been injured in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Call the truck accident attorneys at The Collins Law Firm at (630) 527-1595 for a FREE CONSULTATION today.