The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has suspended Hours of Service regulations for the trucking industry in response to demands arising from the coronavirus pandemic. This suspension will likely contribute to an abundance of fatigued truckers on the road and potentially more truck accidents as a result. The suspension of Hours of Service regulations has been extended through May 15, 2020 (as of April 8, 2020) and could be extended or amended further.
About Hours of Service Regulations
Hours of Service regulations establish the number of hours in a day that truckers can spend driving, and when they must take breaks. They are determined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an organization within the Department of Transportation that regulates commercial vehicle operation in the country.
Before Hours of Service regulations were suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a maximum 11-hour driving limit following 10 hours of off-duty time. The regulations also required break times throughout the time of driving. Truckers are only able to work 14 hours total in a day, accounting for the 11-hour driving limit and necessary breaks.
Trucking Industry Changes Amidst Coronavirus Response
The adjusted Hours of Service regulations are meant to only apply to truckers who are carrying emergency supplies, according to an article on the issue from WIRED: “...regulations no longer apply to drivers transporting full loads of emergency supplies, like medical equipment related to COVID-19, masks and gloves, groceries, fuel, and equipment for building temporary housing or quarantine spaces.”
The 10-hour required breaks still apply — once a driver makes a delivery, they must take a break. Truckers, like always, are also encouraged to take rest breaks as necessary if they feel tired.
Further Exemptions for Pennsylvania Commercial Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also issued an exemption for “commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks” in regards to weight restrictions. The exemption, which is in effect from April 3, 2020 through June 2, 2020 waives weight and permitting requirements for applicable commercial vehicles (that is, those assisting in COVID-19 relief operations, as outlined above) carrying divisible load limits up to 90,000 pounds.
The FMCSA notes that the exemption does not apply to roads or bridges with size/weight restrictions under 67 Pa. Code, Chapters 189, 191, and 193, nor does it apply to bridges or other structures spanning the Delaware River in certain specified areas. Additionally, the FMCSA advises that this exemption does not exempt truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators from following all effective federal and state laws and regulations.
The Dangers of Fatigued Driving
Driving while tired or fatigued is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. When a driver is tired, they cannot respond to the actions of other drivers as quickly or be observant as a well-rested driver.
Fatigued driving can be especially dangerous if the driver is operating a large semi-truck. Trucks are much more complicated than a normal car, and are very heavy. They require complete control to operate safely, and fatigue can cause a driver to relinquish necessary control.
As truckers are driving for longer hours, they may become more fatigued, and therefore case more accidents.
The Metzger Wickersham legal team is available to discuss your truck accident case. We can answer your questions about motor vehicle collisions during a no-cost case evaluation.To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, complete our contact form or call (888) 286-2850.