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Federal Trucking Regulation Suspended During COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 or novel coronavirus pandemic has caused people across the nation to buy suddenly and in bulk. Basic necessities like toilet paper, first aid supplies, and bottled water have disappeared off the shelves of practically in every retail store in the nation. Now, countless people are struggling to keep themselves secure in case a quarantine order is issued in their city or county.

To try to replenish store shelves to prevent further panic and product purchase disparity, the Trump Administration recently announced the suspension of a long-standing Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCSA) regulation that limits how many hours a trucker can drive in a given day or week. The idea is that truckers and trucking companies can decide to extend hours to complete more deliveries in a lesser amount of time than usual.

Typically, a truck driver can only work up to a 14-hour shift in a day with no more than 11 of those hours being used to drive. There is now no limitation placed on truckers who are hauling approved products and medical supplies.

A brief list of the items approved for extended trucking hours are:

  • Medical equipment and treatment supplies useful for containing, researching, or treating COVID-19.
  • Food products to restock stores with significant deficits in supplies and basic food items.
  • In-home equipment and supplies to help contain coronavirus during self-quarantine, such as medical masks for unofficial medical use.

Any commercial transport of medical or emergency personnel is also now exempt from the usual FMSCA hour limitation. Personnel must first be cleared and approved by a state, federal, or local agency.

Longer Trucking Hours Could Mean More Truck Accidents

It is well known that exhausted truck drivers create a great crash hazard on the road than well-rested truckers. The FMCSA actually created the 11-hour driving limit originally in light of clear evidence that fatigued truck drivers were causing an inordinate number of truck accidents on American roadways.

With the regulation lifted to allow for more product transportation during the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear to reason that an increase in trucking accidents will follow. Anyone who is still able to commute to and from work needs to be aware of this increased driving hazard unique to the times. Staying socially distant is recommended to prevent COVID-19 spread, and motor vehicle distancing is recommended to prevent highway accidents.

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All of our attorneys from Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. wish the very best health and safety all of our friends, neighbors, and community members throughout Colorado. The coronavirus has caused significant disruptions and confusion. Yet, we can and will persevere by focusing, being patient, and lending a helping hand to people in need.

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