COVID-19 has significantly altered both business operations and life in America. Many states have seen a spike in fatal car accidents during COVID-19, and there may have been an increase in truck accidents as well. In the early days of the pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suspended the hours of service requirements for commercial truck drivers in an effort to ensure that Americans will continue to receive needed supplies, including groceries and medical supplies.
How COVID-19 Affects the Trucking Industry
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was a spike in demand for food and household items. Store shelves were quickly depleted of many necessary household supplies, and officials grappled with keeping up with demand. This led to an increase in commercial trucking activity throughout the United States as retailers attempted to get their store shelves filled up for the next days of activity.
FMCSA Emergency Exemption
When the FMCSA announced that they were suspending hours of service requirements for truck drivers earlier this year, the news was shocking to many people in the industry. This was the first time in the history of truck regulations that hours of service regulations had been suspended. The move was deemed as necessary by government officials to ensure that direct assistance in support of relief efforts for COVID-19 would continue.
Under the initial emergency exemption from the FMCSA, commercial truck drivers who were delivering the following supplies were exempt from hours of service requirements:
- Livestock and livestock feed
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants)
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
- Immediate precursor raw materials (paper, plastic or alcohol)
- Liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems
- Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Any items designated by federal, state, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine reasons
- Any supplies necessary to provide other medical or emergency services
As of the latest order from the FMCSA, only drivers carrying the first three items on this list are exempt from hours of service requirements.
Risks of Sharing the Road
Large commercial trucks can lead to devastating injuries in the event they collide with traditional passenger vehicles. The hours of service requirements are in place to increase safety on the roadway by decreasing fatigued driving behavior. Anytime safety regulations are suspended, regardless of the reason behind the suspension, there is a risk of increasing unsafe driving behavior. Traditional vehicle drivers and passengers risk sustaining severe injuries in the event they are involved in an accident, and it is not uncommon for victims in these incidents to sustain:
- Broken and dislocated bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe lacerations
- Crush injuries or amputations
- Internal organ damage or internal bleeding
Holding West Virginia Truck Drivers & Companies Accountable
If you or somebody you love has been injured in a truck accident caused by the careless or negligent actions of a truck driver or trucking company, contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our Charleston, WV truck accident lawyers are ready to help you hold truck drivers and companies accountable for their actions. We will thoroughly investigate your case and work to secure any compensation you are entitled to.