COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts Changes to Federal Trucking Regulations

truck driving down highway

Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it will be temporarily lifting hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers transporting emergency supplies and relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though hours-of-service (HOS) rules have been lifted before in states experiencing natural disasters and other emergencies, this is the first time in history that HOS regulations have been suspended on a national scale.

According to the FMCSA, the move is intended to provide relief to areas experiencing shortages due to the novel coronavirus pandemic as people across the United States stock up on medical and food supplies. With the temporary easement of HOS rules, certain truck drivers no longer need to stop driving after 11 consecutive hours during a 14-hour day; instead, they can continue driving in order to bring necessary supplies to grocery stores, medical suppliers, hospitals, and other affected institutions.

Some Truck Drivers Are Not Affected by Changes to Hours-of-Service Rules

The FMCSA noted that the suspension of HOS rules only applies to truck drivers delivering “direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts” to meet certain “immediate needs.”

These immediate needs include:

  • Medical supplies needed for COVID-19 testing and treatment
  • Medical supplies and equipment needed to protect health care workers and others, as well as to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities
  • Food and beverage products to restock grocery stores and other food suppliers
  • People and supplies needed to help set up temporary housing/facilities for COVID-19-related quarantining
  • Any person designated by authorities (federal, state, or local) as essential to quarantine, isolation, or medical procedures related to COVID-19
  • Medical professionals and other health care workers needed to provide medical aid or emergency services

Truck drivers not transporting the above-mentioned people or products are still subject to federal hours-of-service regulations.

What This Means for Motorist Safety

Hours-of-service regulations were first enacted in 1930 to help lower the number of fatigued truck drivers on the road, thereby ensuring increased safety for other motorists sharing the road with large semi-trucks and 18-wheelers. Though the FMCSA has temporarily provided HOS regulatory relief for certain truck drivers, it asserted that it still intends to promote motorist safety by requiring truck drivers to take a minimum of 10 hours off duty after delivering their goods. If a driver was transporting people as opposed to equipment and supplies, he/she will be required to take a minimum of 8 hours off duty after completing his/her route.

However, it’s important to note that the full impact of the temporary HOS regulation suspension on driver safety is unknown. As always, practice caution when sharing the road with large trucks and delivery vehicles. And, if you or your loved one is involved in a truck accident, reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.

To learn more, contact Palmisano & Goodman, P.A. for a no-cost consultation.

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