The federal administration that oversees regulations for America’s six million professional drivers has temporarily suspended a trucking safety law that’s been in place since 1938.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Friday evening that truck drivers who are moving goods “in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks” will temporarily not have to follow the hours-of-service laws, which mandate how many hours a truck driver may work.
This is the first time since 1938, when the rule was developed, that it’s been suspended on a national level. It’s common for states and local governments to lift the rule amid natural disasters, when consumers “panic buy” household goods and hospitals need medical supplies.
“Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response,” America Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally said in a statement to Business Insider. “This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic.”
Around 70% of the nation’s goods by weight is moved by a truck — so ensuring that they can get to your local grocery store or hospital ramps up in times of crisis.
In its current edition, HOS requires truck drivers to drive only 11 hours within a 14-hour work period. They must then log 10 hours of “off-duty” time. The safety law, which is aimed at eliminating exhausted truck drivers from the nation’s highways so they do not endanger others, is disliked by many drivers. Some say the strict regulations actually disrupt their sleep schedule and make them more likely to drive tired.
According to the FMCSA’s Friday evening emergency declaration, here are the types of loads that are exempt from HOS laws:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants
- Food for emergency restocking of stores
- Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response
The coronavirus outbreak, which has been ruled by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic, has seen “panic buying” envelop the nation.
Shipments to grocery and discount retailers increased by 25% last week, according to freight data visibility company Project44. On March 14, a Saturday, that boost was 60%.
Across the country, US sales of hand sanitizer jumped by 228% during the four weeks ending on March 7, compared to the same period last year, according to the most-recently available dataset from retail sales tracker Nielsen.
During January and February, Adobe Analytics, which tracks 80 top online retailers in the US, said sales of cold, cough, and flu products popped 198%, toilet paper grew 186%, canned foods jumped 69%, and “virus protection” items like gloves and masks jumped 817%.
Recent studies show just how damaging coronavirus can be. About 0.1% of people who get the seasonal flu die, but the coronavirus’ death rate is now at about 3.4%. Even those who recover from coronavirus may have 20% to 30% less lung capacity, causing survivors to gasp for breath while walking, doctors in Hong Kong have found.
While there is a demand around the country for supplies ranging from pasta to toilet paper, drastic measures have been necessary. While HOS has lifted regulations, saying putting more trucks on the road and for longer should help, there is a downside to all of this—the very real potential for more truck accidents.
Some of the most deadly motor vehicle accidents involve semi trucks and tractor trailers. The sheer size and weight of these trucks are no match for smaller vehicles such as cars and motorcycles. An accident with a big rig can easily lead to catastrophic injuries and even death.
There are two main factors, aside from weight and height, that are likely to cause deadly truck accidents:
- Truck drivers being fatigued and driving for too long, which decreases their focus.
- Improper loading, which can create an imbalance that can cause the truck to tip over.
Encouraging truck drivers to ignore how long they are driving as well as lifting weight restriction on these vehicles could truly be a recipe for disaster. Governments are creating dangerous conditions that could result in a surge of truck accidents.
Our Tampa Bay Truck Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know the stress that is on many Americans during this difficult time. If you must be on the road, we urge you to exercise more caution than usual, especially around large trucks. Should you or a loved one get into an accident with a semi truck during this time, you can rest easy that we are working around the clock to help all injury and wrongful death victims. Our offices remain open.