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Federal Hours-of-Service Rules for Truck Drivers Temporarily Suspended in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it would temporarily suspend hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for “commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.” While HOS regulations have been temporarily suspended in response to natural disasters and crises before, this marked the first time in the history of the 82-year-old rule that it was suspended on a national scale.

Additionally, on March 18, 2020, the FMCSA announced that it was expanding its national emergency declaration to provide additional regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers. The expansion includes certain commercial vehicle drivers not initially included in the original declaration who will now be temporarily free of HOS regulations.

What Are HOS Regulations?

Typically, all commercial vehicle drivers, whether they are transporting goods or people, are subject to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. Enacted in 1938, these regulations are intended to reduce the number of tired and fatigued commercial vehicle drivers on the road. Fatigued driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents nationwide; the goal of HOS rules is to ensure that truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are able to get adequate rest to help reduce the likelihood of a crash.

Normally, federal hours-of-service regulations for drivers transporting goods are as follows:

  • Drivers may not drive more than 11 consecutive hours or after the 14th hour of coming on duty
  • After driving 11 consecutive hours or after being on duty for 14 hours, drivers must go off duty for at least 10 hours
  • Drivers may not operate a commercial vehicle for more than 60 hours after being on duty for a period of 7 consecutive days or more than 70 hours after being on duty for a period of 8 consecutive days

While HOS regulations are slightly different for commercial vehicle drivers transporting people, the intent is the same: to reduce commercial vehicle driver fatigue and ensure increased safety for commercial vehicle drivers, their passengers, and others on the road.

Who Is Affected by the Temporary HOS Rule Suspension?

Under the FMCSA’s most recent national emergency declaration, the temporary suspension of HOS regulations applies to truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators transporting the following:

  • Medical equipment and supplies necessary for COVID-19 testing and treatment
  • Equipment and supplies needed in relation to community safety, including supplies needed for sanitation and infection prevention (e.g. face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc.)
  • Items deemed “immediate precursor raw materials” needed for the manufacturing of essential equipment and supplies (e.g. alcohol, paper, plastic, etc.)
  • Food and other essential items needed for emergency re-stocking of grocery stores, distributors, and similar suppliers
  • Items and personnel needed for the establishment/management of quarantine facilities and temporary housing
  • Any person named by local, state, or federal authorities as necessary for medical, quarantine, or similar purposes
  • Any person needed to provide medical treatment and services, including emergency care
  • Fuel

What Will This Mean for Others on the Road?

Both the short- and long-term effects of the temporary suspension of federal HOS regulations for certain commercial vehicle drivers is as yet unknown. However, common sense tells us that the longer these individuals drive, the more likely they are to be fatigued. This could present a dangerous situation for other motorists on the road.

As always, we at Todd Miner Law advises you to practice caution when sharing the road with large semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, buses, and other commercial vehicles. Stay alert, obey all traffic laws, and grant large commercial vehicles a wide berth.

While following safe driving practices is one of the best ways to protect yourself from a collision, you can’t always prevent accidents from happening. If you or someone you love is involved in a truck accident, we invite you to reach out to our team for a complimentary consultation. Led by founding attorney Todd Miner, our trial lawyers have what it takes to fight for the full, fair recovery you are owed.

For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call (407) 269-5877.

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