The novel coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) has dramatically changed life in the United States, with each successive news broadcast bringing more and more frightening information about the symptoms, rising death toll, and risks associated with the disease. At the same time, medical professionals face severe shortages of personal protective equipment and other supplies, and panic buying has made items like toilet paper and pantry staples hard to find.
Though the federal government has taken some steps to try to correct these shortages, such as designating commercial truck drivers as "essential workers" throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some of the other "solutions" implemented may actually put people at serious risk of injury or death.
On March 13, 2020, the federal agency tasked with regulating interstate trucking—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA—announced the suspension of driving time limits for truckers hauling essential cargo or drivers transporting essential personnel. While allowing truckers to drive lengthy shifts without having to stop to rest may help medical supplies and other goods get to their destinations faster, it also increases the risk that those drivers may cause an accident. Here's what you need to know about coronavirus-related trucking regulation changes and how we can help you protect your right to recovery if you were injured in a crash.
Suspended Regulations & the Potential Effects on Truck Driver Performance
Prior to their suspension response to COVID-19 supply shortages, the FMCSA's Hours-of-Service Rules limited cargo-carrying truckers to 14-hour shifts with up to 11 consecutive driving hours, provided that the driving shift was followed by at least 10 hours off duty. The regulations also restricted passenger-carrying commercial drivers to a 10-hour driving limit following eight consecutive hours off duty. In effect since 2013, the FMCSA designed the rules to reduce driver drowsiness that can lead to serious or even deadly crashes.
Though driving while drowsy may not seem particularly dangerous, multiple studies show that fatigue and alcohol similarly impair driving performance. That's because both drowsiness can alcohol impairment can cause slowed reaction times, reduced vigilance, poor judgment, lack of concentration, and errors in calculating speed and distance. Additionally, drowsy drivers are easily distracted, which could take the problem from bad to worse.
Affected Deliveries & Transportation
Fortunately, the relaxed FMCSA safety regulations don't give every single commercial driver in the country a free pass to toss the Hours-of-Service rules out the window. According to the FMCSA's March 13 statement, the suspended rules only apply to commercial vehicle operations directly assisting emergency relief efforts to meet needs 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 healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities
- Food for emergency restocking of stores
- Equipment, supplies and 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
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
Protecting Your Rights After a Truck Accident
Suspending Hours-of-Service rules doesn't mean that truck drivers can't be held liable if they cause a crash resulting in injuries, property damages, or death. If you were hurt in truck or bus crash caused by a negligent commercial driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses—and the skilled California truck accident attorneys at the Inland Empire Law Group can help you protect your right to recovery.
Truck crashes aren't your typical car accident. The injuries and damages tend to be far more extreme and, as a result, the settlements and financial awards in truck accident cases can be sizable. The at-fault commercial driver and their employer may fight against fairly compensating you every step of the way. There's far too much at stake to go it alone. Contact our adept injury recovery professionals today at (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to find out how we can help.