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FMCSA Relaxing Commercial Driver Safety Regulations During COVID-19

Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on Jun 03, 2020 in Auto Accidents

truck driver checking devicesThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has decided to extend its COVID-19 emergency declaration through June 14 by relaxing hours of service (HOS) regulations for commercial drivers. The goal of this decision is to increase safety on roadways and offer truckers certain flexibilities when transporting and delivering goods. 

An emergency declaration issued in March 2020 suspended HOS rules on the national level in an unprecedented move. Our legal team at Phillips Law Group further discusses why the emergency relief order (49 CFR § 390.25) was granted, extended, and further expanded and how it provides direct assistance and other relief services.

Implementation of Hours of Service Rules

Since fatigued truck drivers can pose a serious threat to others sharing the roadways, HOS regulations were implemented to govern the working hours of any individual operating a commercial vehicle in the U.S. These rules limit the number of daily and weekly hours commercial truck drivers can operate their vehicles. There is also a minimum amount of time required to take rest breaks in-between driving shifts.

These regulations are enforced by having commercial truck drivers keep a record of their working hours in a log book that outlines how many hours are spent driving and resting. When these rules are violated by a driver who is tired or falls asleep at the wheel, accidents can happen, resulting in serious and potentially fatal injuries. Commercial vehicles are larger, heavier vehicles that take a lot of time to slow down.

Reason for Extension of Emergency Relief Order

The COVID-19 emergency declaration was issued to help provide direct assistance in support of relief efforts during this time. This order was set to expire May 2020 before being extended through June 14.

It includes the immediate restoration of several essential services and supplies, such as:

  • Medical supplies and equipment to test, diagnose and treat COVID-19
  • Supplies and equipment needed for community safety, sanitation and preventative measures against getting coronavirus  (i.e. masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants)
  • Food, paper products and other groceries to help stock distribution centers or stores
  • Raw materials to be used to manufacture paper, plastic and alcohol
  • Fuel and liquified gases for use in refrigeration or cooling systems  
  • Any equipment, supplies, or individuals to help create and achieve temporary housing, quarantine and isolations facilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relaxing Existing HOS Regulations

The FMCSA’s relaxed hours of service regulations include the following revisions:

  • Requiring a rest break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing an on-duty or not driving period to qualify as a rest break.
  • Modifying the sleeper berth exception to allow drivers to split their 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement into an eight and two hour split or a seven and three hour split. Either split cannot be counted against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the maximum window during which driving is allowed by two hours.
  • Changing the short-haul exemption that is accessible to some commercial drivers by lengthening the driver’s maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours as well as extending the distance limit that a driver may be able to operate from 100 to 150 air miles.

These relaxed regulations are expected to improve safety for all motorists and provide much-needed flexibility for commercial drivers while maintaining safety on the roadways.

Accidents Caused by Hours of Service Violations

Although the emergency relief order is intended to help, accidents involving commercial vehicles can still happen. Proving there was an HOS violation means establishing whether the truck driver is required to comply with these rules because some exceptions do exist for drivers who work in teams or split the hour requirements. This is why it is important to an experienced lawyer by your side who knows how to gather information that could help establish whether an hour of service regulation was violated.

Get the Legal Help You Need After an Injury

If you have been injured in a truck-related accident, it is in your best interest to contact our Phoenix truck accident lawyers at Phillips Law Group for legal help. We have been helping injury victims for nearly three decades, having recovered millions of dollars in compensation on our clients’ behalf.

An initial consultation with our firm is completely free and your are under no obligation to take legal action. There are no upfront fees for our services if you decide to have us represent you. Since we operate on a contingency basis, we only receive payment if we help you obtain compensation.

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