Our country relies on long-haul trucking to deliver most of the food and products that we use every day. Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, the purchase and distribution of goods from online shopping has also exploded.
Driver fatigue has always been a leading cause of trucking accidents. Since 1938, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enforced rules limiting the hours that long-haul truck drivers are allowed to be on the road.
On March 13, 2019, the FMCSA temporarily suspended many of the limits on work hours for truckers who deliver goods essential to the COVID-19 response. Essential goods can include products like medical supplies, protective gear, and food.
FMCSA guidance is vague on the definition of essential goods. It doesn’t state how much of a trucker’s load has to be essential goods to qualify. Theoretically, a truck could qualify if it was full of sports equipment, but also carried a few boxes of hand sanitizer.
Because of these changes, many truckers are driving more hours. It is hard for them to take a rest break because rest areas, restaurants, and some truck stops are closed due to COVID-19.
The trucking industry was already short-handed before the COVID-19 outbreak. We need tens of thousands of additional drivers to deliver our goods. Truckers often try to drive every possible hour to meet this demand and maximize their earnings. The result is more tired truckers.
This shortage won’t end anytime soon and is likely to get even worse. It takes at least three months to train a trucker, longer for specialty loads. Trucking schools and government licensing offices in many states have closed due to COVID-19.
Although the COVID-19 lockdown greatly reduced automobile traffic on our highways, the volume of long-haul trucking didn’t change much. As cities and states open back up, traffic will slowly return to normal and truckers will have to contend with seas of passenger cars again.
By law, truckers must maintain logbooks that record the number of hours they work, including the number of hours on the road. Even though falsifying a logbook is a felony, some dishonest
truckers try to hide the truth as they push for faster, longer trips and more pay. The FMCSA exemptions may actually encourage this behavior by some truckers.
It’s unclear how long the FMCSA exemptions will remain in effect. Eventually, the old rules limiting trucker drive time will return. Until then, at least some of the truckers sharing the road with you will be fatigued, driving too many hours and not getting enough rest.
If you were involved in a trucking accident, you should talk to a personal injury attorney with a solid history of trucking accident settlements and verdicts. Your attorney will help you determine your best course of action.
If you need an attorney, call us at (417) 313-1130, (417) 319-2113, or (833) 600-0125 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. With 140+ years of combined experience, Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci is one of the region’s leading personal injury law firms.