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How the National State of Emergency Makes Roads Less Safe

Semi Truck

Since 1938, regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have kept overworked truck drivers off the road and prevented shipping companies from setting unrealistic expectations for their employees. In 2020, due to the 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), one of these regulations was suspended for the first time in our nation’s history.

Hours-of-Service Laws

FMCSA hours-of-service laws limit drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel per 14-hour workday and call for regular rest breaks. Further, before a new 14-hour shift can begin, drivers must log 10 hours of “off-duty” time. These regulations help ensure that drivers get enough rest and are awake and alert whenever they are behind the wheel.

On March 14, 2020, however, hours-of-service regulations were temporarily suspended. This means certain drivers can log as many hours as they want on any given day and they do not have any legal requirements for rest.

Why the Suspension?

According to Business Insider, American truck drivers move 70% of our nation’s goods. With the increased demand for medical supplies and “panic buying” in grocery stores, truck drivers are working harder than ever before to make sure hospitals and retailers are stocked.

Thus, “drivers who are moving goods ‘in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks’ will temporarily not have to follow the hours-of-service laws.”

While this drastic measure may help us fight Coronavirus, it may also contribute to another leading cause of death in the United States – semi-truck accidents.

Semi-Truck Stats and Drowsy Driving

Each year, around 4,000 people die in accidents with large trucks. Due to the size and weight of semi-trucks and 18-wheelers, many of the victims are passenger vehicle occupants. FMCSA regulations help prevent behaviors like drunk and distracted driving, but with the recent suspension, they no longer have the power to discourage drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving has frequently been compared to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that commercial drivers are more likely to drive drowsy than other drivers on the road.

If a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel, the results can be devastating for not only the driver but also (and especially) those around them. Even without drivers falling asleep at the wheel, drowsy driving can interfere with focus, reaction time, and decision making. A truck driver without rest periods is something none of us want to encounter on the road.

What If I Am Harmed in a Semi-Truck Accident?

Although stay-at-home orders may keep much of Wisconsin’s population off the road, many people will still have to drive for essential errands and services. If you are injured by a tired truck driver while you are out, you are still allowed to seek justice.

At Casey Law Offices, S.C., we are here for you, even through these unprecedented times. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, Attorney John P. Casey will listen to your story, help you hold the at-fault parties accountable, and seek compensation on your behalf.

Call us 24/7 at (414) 272-5564 or type out what happened using our online contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you obtain the justice you deserve.

*For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, please consult the CDC or WHO (the World Health Organization). For access to Wisconsin’s executive order, please click here.