In March of 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency hours-of-service waiver. This waiver followed the national emergency declared by President Trump due to COVID-19.
In the last two years that the waiver was introduced, it was modified or extended over 10 times. This year, the agency decided to quietly let the waiver lapse. The hours-of-service extension expired on October 13, and chances of a renewal are slim.
Truck safety advocates and major truck companies fully support the cancellation of the emergency hours-of-service waiver – and so do we. The Charlotte truck accident attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates explain some of the reasons why the waiver was not renewed.
Reasons for the HOS waiver
Hours-of-service (HOS) rules are federal regulations that the trucking industry must follow when transporting cargo. These regulations govern the amount of time that truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel.
Prior to the HOS waiver, truck drivers carrying cargo were limited to driving 11 hours on the highways. In addition to this time limit, drivers took a mandatory period of 10 consecutive hours off duty.
In addition to the 10 hour off-duty hours, drivers could not travel for 14 consecutive hours after taking their off-duty time. The HOS regulations also governed the number of hours that truck drivers could work in a certain amount of consecutive days. Truck drivers were prohibited from driving after 60 or 70 hours in seven to eight consecutive days.
The only time that a driver could restart the eight-day consecutive period is after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty. The only exceptions to these regulations were adverse driving conditions. If truck drivers were affected by adverse driving conditions while on the road, the hours-of-service would be extended by up to two hours.
The increased need for supplies across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused the trucking industry to waive these regulations. The need for goods increased as quarantine became mandatory. As a result, more truckers were needed and the amount of time traveling on the roads had to increase.
Issues with the HOS waiver
Those waived limits have caused safety concerns for truckers on the highways. As you might expect, drivers of passenger vehicles suffer the most when involved in accidents with trucks because of the large difference in the size and weight of the vehicles.
Truck safety advocates were concerned about the HOS waiver because of the potential for increased accidents. HOS regulations are mandatory regulations that decrease the possibility of fatigue. The longer truck drivers are on the road, the greater the possibility of falling asleep behind the wheel. In a press release, members of Congress along with the Truck Safety Coalition reported that there has been a 13% increase in deaths occurring from truck crashes from 2020 to 2021.
The dangers of truck driver fatigue
Because of the size and weight of a truck, it is often difficult to determine whether a driver is fatigued or not. But if the truck is swerving or moving erratically, that is an indication that the driver could be fatigued. The FMCSA’s last comprehensive study was done in 2007, and it revealed that as many as 13% of truck drivers are fatigued at the time of a crash. Driver fatigue is a condition that is not only caused by little to no sleep. It can also be caused by strenuous activities, physical or mental exertion, and lengthy hours of work.
Driving while fatigued can affect a truck driver’s physical and mental capabilities. The trucker’s reaction time, judgment, and even vision are affected by fatigue. Drivers who are drowsy can veer into another lane and cause a serious head-on collision or sideswipe accident.
For the record, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports there were 633 traffic fatalities caused by drowsy driving-related crashes in 2020.
Allowing the HOS waiver to expire was a good thing
According to FreightWaves, to determine whether the HOS waiver should continue to be extended, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson stated that the agency evaluated different types of data. They considered the parties who are using the waiver and the comments that were included about the last extension. They also considered the state that the country was in with COVID and the guidance coming out of the situation.
Even though the US Department of Health and Human Services made a decision that a public health emergency still exists concerning COVID, the FMCSA stated that the tools they have for regulatory relief are limited. In addition to the lack of tools, the agency realized that the amount of transported cargo has been declining. If that wasn’t enough, the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Truck Safety Coalition both supported the cancellation of the extension – two groups who rarely agree on issues related to the trucking industry.
In a press release statement issued by the group, the ATA stated that its members no longer felt that the continued relief was necessary. Some members also felt that continuing to extend the waiver could lead to severe consequences:
While ATA appreciated the emergency declaration relief throughout the early stages of the pandemic, most ATA members no longer feel continued relief is necessary. ATA members continue to voice concerns that continuing regulatory relief may be used to circumvent the hours-of-service regulations or foster abuse of the regulations.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a truck accident in the Charlotte area, you need strong legal representation to file a claim. The Charlotte truck accident attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates will fight for your right to compensation. Call our office, or submit our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation today. We represent injured clients in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.