Many aspects of our lives have been uprooted during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From minor inconveniences like shopping habits to major crises like unemployment, our communities, states and nation are grappling with massive change and uncertainty. Medical institutions seem to be hit the hardest as critically needed supplies and equipment are in very short supply.
To more quickly move supplies where they are urgently needed, the U.S. highway-safety regulators have suspended the rules that limit daily driving hours for truck drivers moving emergency supplies, personnel and cargo. The Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the nationwide exemption in mid-March, following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency due to the pandemic.
This is the first time in history this type of measure has been taken on a national level. In the past, only regions directly impacted by major natural disasters have been granted a waiver from these critical regulations.
While there is a desperate need for these supplies, the drive time restrictions are in place for a reason – to prevent deadly accidents and injuries caused by dangerous tired drivers.
What are the Specific Changes to Daily Drive Time Limits?
Federal regulations normally limit most commercial truck drivers to 11 hours of driving time in a 14-hour workday. These restrictions are intended to reduce accidents caused by highway fatigue. Greater daily mileage and faster deliveries equals bigger paychecks for drivers. The easing of these safety-based restrictions will have many long-haul truck drivers eager to take advantage of the opportunity to make more money.
Unfortunately, the danger of longer shifts has been recognized in the United States since 1938, but high-level authorities are making the case that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
The drivers hauling qualifying cargo may operate entirely outside of the standard 14-hour shift regulations. The only requirement that these truckers, couriers and drivers must abide by is taking a mandatory 8- or 10-hour breaks following their delivery.
How Will This Impact the Rest of Us?
No one can predict how the implications of this decision will unfold. From our years of experience as injury lawyers, we know that some of the worst damages occur in high-speed, head on, multi-lane collisions resulting from the effects of fatigued drivers; inattention, distraction and even falling asleep at the wheel.
Our hope is that we will be lucky and not see an increase in devastating trucking accidents. This is a real concern considering that our state has largely reopened for business. We certainly want as few people as possible sharing the roads with exhausted drivers with critical loads of supplies.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
The best way to protect yourself and your family right now is to follow the instructions of the authorities in your area and stay at home as much as possible. Leaving the roads free for those who must be out, critical care, essential deliveries and activities will help all of us get through this crisis. If you do need to leave home, be extra cautious and attentive.
Wear a mask, wash your hands and do you best to stay safe and healthy and help others do the same. The fewer people who get sick, the less strain on our healthcare system and hopefully, the less we will have to resort to extreme measures like suspending trucker safety regulations.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a fatigued delivery driver or injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the experienced lawyers at Goldblatt + Singer for immediate legal assistance. We can help you get compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. For a free case evaluation, call or text us today at (314) 888-1000.