COVID-19 Crisis: FMCSA Regulations Lifted
In an attempt to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump recently lifted an important federal safety regulation that mandates limited daily driving hours for commercial truckers.
FMCSA Safety Regulations Suspended
In times of crisis, emergency declarations may be issued by the President, State Governors, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration has issued such an emergency declaration involving the commercial trucking industry.
To ensure faster transport and delivery of vital supplies like medical equipment and basic necessities for the public, an emergency declaration was issued temporarily suspending FMCSA safety regulations for mandated hours of service for motor carriers and truck drivers. Emergency transport includes:
- All medical equipment, supplies or drugs used by hospitals and medical facilities for research and treatment
- All medical supplies needed by consumers to prevent COVID-19 infections
- Equipment and supplies used to build or improve temporary emergency facilities
- Food and supplies to restock grocery shelves for consumers
- Medical and emergency response personnel
Under normal regulations, commercial truckers are restricted from driving more than 11 hours within a 14-hour workday period. With the regulation lifted, truckers are permitted to drive without restrictions on driving hours, and trucking companies can instruct their drivers to work longer shifts and additional hours. The current suspension of FMCSA safety regulations is limited to a maximum of 30 days unless extended by FMCSA officials.
In 2013, the FMCSA instigated new regulations for hours of service for all commercial motor carriers and truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license. The mandate for limited driving time was established to prevent drowsy driving and fatigue behind the wheel, common factors in many truck accidents seen by injury lawyers every year. The mandate limits driving time and requires periodic rest breaks and specific off-duty hours for all drivers operating with a commercial license.
Although safety regulations are currently suspended, carriers and drivers are expected to exercise good judgment and safe driving behaviors to avoid drowsiness and fatigue, or any other conditions that present a hazard to other motorists on the road. However, there are concerns among some transportation officials that truck accidents may increase during the COVIC-19 crisis. Studies show that truck driver fatigue hinders physical coordination, interferes with cognitive functions, decreases attention to the road, and slows reaction times. With suspended FMCSA safety regulations, commercial truckers must exercise safe driving skills to ensure public safety on all U.S. roads and highways.