In response to an increased demand for supplies amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, hours of service regulations have been suspended. These regulations, established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), define the amount of time that truck drivers can safely stay on the road during a shift. Hours of service regulations minimize driver fatigue and related truck accidents. The suspension of the regulations has raised concerns about potential safety hazards.
Hours of service regulations state that truck drivers are only permitted to drive for a certain number of hours during their shifts, and only after they have taken legally-mandated breaks. Under the regulations, truckers’ drive time must be limited to a maximum of 11 hours. This is only under the condition that they have been off duty for a total of 10 hours or more before starting their shift. Additionally, truck drivers are not permitted to “drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty,” as stated by the FMCSA.
The federal government suspended hours of service regulations in March 2020 to allow truckers delivering essential supplies to drive for longer periods at a time. This includes drivers who are transporting medical supplies, food, disinfectants, and other items, as well as people who need to travel for medical or professional purposes related to the pandemic.
Suspending hours of service regulations is “common for states and local governments to lift the rule amid natural disasters, when consumers ‘panic buy’ household goods and hospitals need medical supplies,” according to a report from Business Insider. However, this is the first time that the suspension of hours of service regulations has been ordered nationwide.
With hours unregulated, truckers may be driving in excess of 11 hours in one shift. This can lead to significant fatigue, and possibly, accidents. Driving while fatigued can severely limit a trucker’s reaction and response time.
Additionally, many drivers of other vehicles are speeding and driving recklessly while roads are less congested. This presents another potential danger to drivers. If you must travel at this time, it is important to remain aware of these dangers and protect yourself.
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