Since the 1930s, American truck drivers have been protected by ‘hours of service’(Hos) regulations. These laws meant that truck drivers could only drive for a certain number of hours per day before they had to pull over and rest. However, the White House has temporarily suspended these regulations until further notice. That’s just the beginning; here’s why COVID-19 will cause more truck accidents.
Hours of Service Regulations
Lifting hours of service restrictions is an unprecedented move. For the past 80 years, no emergency has been considered severe enough to make truckers drive longer hours. However, panic-buying in reaction to COVID-19 have created shortages in every American city, and a need for rapid resupply.
Normally, truck drivers must adhere to the following hours of service regulations.
· Driver must take a 10-hour break for every 11 hours of driving
· No truck driver may operate their vehicle for more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period.
· No driver may operate their vehicle more than 70 hours per week.
These restrictions are designed to keep truckers safe from their companies pushing unreasonable delivery times. They’re also meant to encourage truckers to get enough sleep while on the road. Even before the change, many truck drivers felt pressured to engage in drowsy driving to make their deliveries on time.
With these restrictions lifted for drivers carrying groceries and medical supplies, truck accidents will likely increase until the pandemic subsides and the White House reinstates hours of service regulations.
A Trend of Tired Truckers
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 40% of truck drivers surveyed claimed pressure from work was a significant factor in driving beyond their normal hours of service and to the point of fatigue. That same study found that roughly 1-in-9 commercial truck accidents were the direct result of a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
The law protected these truck drivers from their employers. Now, with these restrictions lifted, many truck drivers will feel intense pressure to push on in spite of their tiredness. This will undoubtedly cause more commercial truck accidents in the coming months.
A Burden of Responsibility
Truck drivers have always had a responsibility to pull over and rest when they are too tired to drive. However, the stakes are now higher than ever. Without the protection of hours of service regulations, truck drivers need to be willing to understand and adjust to their own limitations. They must be willing to tell their employers when they can’t go any further.
Likewise, despite the lifted regulations, fleet managers need to respect their drivers and schedule times for them to stop. Even in an emergency, drivers are only human. They need the same amount of rest they always have, regardless of the pressure to make deliveries.
It’s crucial that everyone involved realize the stakes of a truck accident. A fully-loaded commercial truck will cause unthinkable damage to anything it hits. The vast majority of truck accidents end in tragedy for the passenger vehicle.
In these difficult times, when grocery stores and hospitals need supplies, truck drivers simply can’t risk getting into an accident. Any delay in fresh supplies could result in an exponential tragedy at the intended destination. While hours of service regulations have been lifted, truck drivers face greater pressure than ever to reach their destination in one piece.
If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or even wrongful death in a truck accident, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced Gulfport auto accident attorney from Gulf South Law Firm to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (228) 231-3989.