Is COVID-19 Raising the Risk of Truck Accidents?

Demand for deliveries has soared as COVID-19 spread across America, and with it, the potential risk of commercial motor vehicle accidents. To allow companies to deliver the supplies needed by communities across the country, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) relaxed hours of service regulations for drivers delivering critical supplies such as medical equipment, sanitizer, food, pharmaceuticals, etc. The increased delivery schedule coupled with relaxed hours of service regulations creates an increased risk of drowsy driving accidents and other wrecks.   

Dangers of Driving a Truck During a Pandemic

Truck drivers are at significant risk of contracted COVID-19 as they travel to and fro across the country. Moreover, because it takes a week or longer to develop symptoms, this means they could be spreading the virus with every mile they travel. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 and drivers with the virus who are already tired from extended hours on the road are at considerable risk of causing a drowsy driving accident. Further, with truck stop showers and rest areas closed, drivers have little opportunity to properly protect their health and maintain essential hygiene. 

Additionally, increased hours on the road mean that an increasing number of trucks are in need of regular service. Tire changes, oil changes, etc. are not easy to complete on the road as a significant number of repair shops remain closed. This means many drivers are foregoing regular maintenance and routine inspections that could lead to a mechanical failure that can cause a large truck accident.  

Waiver Limitations

The FMCSA waiver in responses to the outbreak of the most recent coronavirus does not apply to all truck drivers. It only applies to those delivering a limited scope of supplies related to the pandemic and the needs of hospitals and others tasked with response to the pandemic. This means that drivers hauling construction supplies, livestock, fertilizer, domestic goods, etc. are not covered by the waiver and therefore still limited by existing hours of service regulations and recordkeeping requirements. Likewise, drivers who transport mixed loads are not covered by the waiver. 

As such, decreased vehicular traffic coupled with the limited scope of the emergency waiver means that the number of large truck accidents is unlikely to rise significantly. However, it does mean motorists who encounter drivers who are taking advantage of the waiver to make more deliveries are at increased risk.