The Fight Against COVID-19 Results in Changes to Trucking Rules

March 31, 2020 Truck Accident Blog

Empty shelves at grocery stores is not something Americans are used to seeing. Limits on buying toilet paper and paper towel rolls is an alien concept. Scenes of hordes of panicked shoppers fighting with one another is usually something reserved for Black Friday news stories. All non-essential businesses are closed. Even essential businesses, like truck accident attorneys, NJ, are working at home.

trucking accident lawyer new jersey truck accident attorneys new jersey truck accident lawyer truck accident attorneys njAmerica’s supply chain is rarely noticed…until things go wrong. In normal times, trucks, tankers and delivery vehicles transport and distribute our food, medical supplies, cleaning products, bottled water, etc. without issue. Absent an impending snow storm or hurricane, grocery store shelves are always fully stocked. Hospitals might be stressed from a local outbreak of the flu or a large scale accident but this is short-lived.

When the demand greatly exceeds the speed of our supply chain, the store shelves will remain empty and medical supplies will dwindle. The rapid and sustained movement of goods is the only way to return to normalcy.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the distribution of food, cleaning supplies and medical supplies is now a matter of national security. As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, has eased some regulations in order to more quickly move certain goods and supplies across the country.

Before the pandemic, truck drivers were permitted to drive up to 11 hours a day and could work up to 14 hours per day. This rule was designed to prevent fatigued driving which is one of the biggest contributing factors to fatal and catastrophic truck crashes.

The Federal Government has now suspended these “hours of service” or “maximum drive time” rules for truck drivers transporting the following:

  1. Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for health care worker, patient and community safety, sanitation and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities;
  2. Equipment, supplies and food for emergency restocking of stores;
  3. Persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19;
  4. Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes; and
  5. Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.

However, because fatigued driving is such a danger to truck drivers and other motorists, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s order only applies to truck drivers and truck companies that are working to fight the spread of COVID-19. The rule suspension does not apply to routine commercial deliveries or truckers hauling mixed loads that include essential supplies. The order also protects truck drivers who might be coerced by trucking companies to drive when they are too tired. “If the driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location,” the declaration reads.

The rule suspension will remain in effect until the declaration of emergency is terminated or until April 12, 2020, whichever occurs sooner. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rule suspension attempts to balance the need for road safety with the need to get medical supplies and food to Americans during the pandemic. You can contact your truck accident attorneys, NJ, if you have any questions. We are not working in our offices but are available remotely to continue to meet your needs.

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