Coronavirus Leads to Relaxation of Trucker Fatigue Restrictions
America’s truck drivers are the unsung heroes of the coronavirus crisis. They keep essential food and healthcare supplies moving to replenish stores and hospitals. As a result, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration relaxed trucker fatigue restrictions in response to the pandemic. In March, the federal government gave haulers of key goods the green light by dropping some longstanding restrictions on their working hours to combat COVID-19-related shortages.
The Trump administration allowed the temporary suspension of an important Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation that limits how many hours a trucker can be on the road in one day. The regulation prevented truckers from driving for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour shift. The lifting of the rule means truckers and trucking companies can now set up longer driving schedules if they are transporting important supplies such as medical equipment or food needed to keep the country going during the coronavirus.
Results of Relaxed Trucker Fatigue Regulations
The pandemic has made heroes of America’s truckers. John Austin, president of Bengal Transportation in Geismar, told Louisiana’s Advocate truckers are “road heroes” who are the country’s backbone during the current crisis. Drivers have been helped by an easing of regulations imposed more than eight decades ago to limit the incidence of trucking accidents on the country’s roads.
Although it’s critical to keep the supply chain moving, we are conscious of how a relaxation of trucker fatigue restrictions may lead to more accidents. At present, stay-at-home orders in many states have reduced traffic congestion, potentially leading to drivers encountering tired truckers.
The pressures on truck drivers at this time are immense. Drivers must do their jobs while social distancing. Trucking companies are instructing drivers to regularly wipe down their rigs and take other sanitary measures to keep the virus at bay.
In some states, truck drivers face the closure of rest areas, and a lack of places to buy food. Some businesses are even refusing to let truckers use restrooms or closing them down, making it more difficult for them to deliver essential goods and medical supplies. These restrictions increase the pressures truck drivers face and are a recipe for anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Inevitably, tired truck drivers may cause accidents that kill and injure others on the road.
Deadly Accidents Caused by Tired Truck Drivers
Even before coronavirus, fatigue was a well-known problem in the trucking industry. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were tired at the time they cause a wreck, noted the FMSCA.
Tractor-trailer drivers are most likely to struggle with drowsiness from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the FMSCA notes. One study found that incidents are highest in the first hour after drivers wake up from sleep, particularly in a cab’s sleeper berth. So-called sleep inertia can affect short-term memory, cognitive functioning, and reaction times on the road, according to 2007 research.
Tired truck drivers often cause very serious accidents. We have seen fatal incidents in which heavy tractor-trailers plowed into cars that slowed down or stopped on the road ahead when the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. Typically, the occupants of smaller vehicles suffer the most serious injuries in accidents involving tractor-trailers. The ongoing relaxation of trucker fatigue restrictions may cause an upsurge in serious and fatal wrecks involving giant tractor-trailers.
Talk to a Virginia Trucker Fatigue Accident Lawyer
Thousands of truckers operate on Virginia’s busy interstates every day including I-95, I-64, and I-81. Big rigs access ports and railheads in Newport News, Portsmouth, and Norfolk. Other major highways such as Route 460 are also notorious for tractor-trailer accents.
While truckers perform an invaluable service, the risk of crashes is higher during the coronavirus crisis. When a big rig driver causes a crash, the driver, a trucking company, a broker, a loading company or another party can be held liable for injuries. Please talk to our attorneys about Virginia accidents caused by tired truckers. Call us for a free consultation.