Commercial Driver Safety Standards Relaxed During COVID-19
Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on May 22, 2020 in Personal Injury
In March 2020, the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) were suspended nationwide. While smaller scale suspensions have happened in the past during times of local or state disasters, there has never been a nationwide suspension.
Rizk Law explains why the Department of Transportation has issued the emergency relief order 49 CFR § 390.23, requiring the suspension of HOS regulations during the COVID-19 disaster, and what potential risks we may expect to see as a result of this change.
When other drivers or passengers are injured in trucking accidents, there are often serious, life-altering injuries. If this has happened to you or a family member, we encourage you to contact a qualified member of our firm to arrange for a free legal consultation. These zero-cost meetings are an opportunity to learn whether you may have grounds for a lawsuit and to get answers to other legal questions, such as what to expect from a truck accident injury claim. There are no fees or upfront costs if you retain our services, because we only get paid if you do.
Why Hours of Service Regulations Were Implemented
For those who are less familiar with federal trucking regulations, the HOS regulations were originally implemented nearly 90 years ago to help improve road safety and reduce accidents due to drowsy driving. Under these regulations, commercial truck drivers are limited in the number of hours they may drive without taking a break.
Driving fatigued has been compared to driving drunk. Not only do drivers risk falling asleep at the wheel, but their ability to react to a dangerous situation or make safe driving decisions is severely impacted. Driving drowsy is especially dangerous when operating larger, heavier vehicles that take longer to maneuver or slow down.
Purpose of the Department of Transportation’s Waiver
The FMCSA states that the intent of the HOS suspension under 49 CFR § 390.23 is to help provide increased access to COVID-19 testing and treatment supplies, as well as immediate relief of the nationwide shortages of certain essential supplies related to the coronavirus pandemic. Attempts to maintain essential food supplies, disinfectants, face masks, paper products and hand sanitizers, amongst other goods and services, has been difficult with the increased demand.
How Do the Relaxed HOS Regulations Apply?
The emergency relief order was originally intended to expire in May 2020; however, it has now been extended through June 14, 2020, and applies to trucks or services providing:
- Equipment or supplies required to test and treat COVID-19
- Essential goods necessary to reduce the spread of the virus, protect the community and further limit the spread of infection, including disinfectants, gloves, alcohol-based sanitizers and face masks.
- Grocery items, such as food, water and other essentials.
- Raw materials, such as paper, alcohol or plastic, that may be used to manufacture any of the aforementioned products
- Workers, supplies and equipment required to establish, maintain and manage essential housing related to COVID-19 isolation and quarantining practices.
The FMCSA relaxed regulations may also apply in other situations as determined by local, state or federal authorities, such as for essential workers who regularly transport essential medical supplies or services. The emergency declaration does not apply to trucks transporting cargo or people providing services that are not related to the relief of COVID-19.
How You Can Protect Yourself from Fatigued Truck Drivers
Once you are behind the wheel and on the road, driving defensively is the best approach for protecting yourself from fatigued truck drivers. Giving in to annoyance or allowing yourself to become impatient behind the wheel is dangerous. Not only can it lead to road rage, but it can also increase your chances of getting into an accident.
While the HOS emergency relief order is designed to help, the question remains as to whether it will lead to more traffic accidents with semi-trucks. Logically speaking, if more commercial operators are driving fatigued, then there will likely be an increase in accidents due to their impaired ability to drive safely.
Here are some driving best practices that can help to reduce your risk of an accident with a truck:
- Be alert about a truck driver’s blind spot, and do not drive or attempt to pass in this zone.
- Avoid reckless or aggressive driving behavior, such as tailgating or speeding.
- Maintain a safe distance from large commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers or semi-trailer trucks.
- Stay alert and ready to respond to unexpected road conditions due to traffic, debris or the weather.
- Do not pass if it seems unsafe.
- Put distance between you and any truck driver who exhibits unsafe or impaired driving behavior, such as drifting into another lane or swerving.
- To help protect others, notify local police if you see a truck driving recklessly or exhibiting signs of driving fatigued.
After an Accident, Contact Our Firm for Legal Help
If you were injured in a truck accident caused by a negligent or impaired driver, we encourage you to contact a member of the trusted legal team at Rizk Law.
Our knowledgeable Portland truck accident attorneys are available to provide legal help to injured victims. We are prepared to review the circumstances that led to your accident and discuss whether you may be eligible to pursue compensation for your damages. This no-obligation initial consultation is confidential, free and provides a unique opportunity for you to get answers to your legal questions.
There are no out-of-pocket costs to retain our services. Since we operate on contingency, we only get paid if you do.