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Could Relaxed Hours of Service Rules Cause More Workers’ Comp Claims from Truck Drivers?

truck driver wearing mask in truckSince March, federal hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers have been relaxed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hours of service rules set limits on the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can be behind the wheel before taking a break. These temporary rules apply to commercial truck drivers who are transporting food, paper products and other groceries to restock distribution centers or stores.

This decision was applauded by the National Grocers Association, as retail grocery stores have yet to recover from the supply shortages that occurred in the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak.  

While the relaxed rules may help the nation’s response to the pandemic, they could be increasing the risk for truck accidents. Unfortunately, these accidents often result in serious injuries to those in passenger vehicles, due to a commercial truck’s larger size and weight.

If you get injured while driving a commercial truck, you may have grounds for a workers’ compensation claim. Our Bakersfield workers’ compensation lawyers are here to help injured employees pursue benefits.

Modified Hours of Service Rules

On August 11, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it was extending its Emergency Declaration until September 14. That means the modified hours of service rules will apply until then, barring another extension.

The revisions to hours of service rules include the following:

  • Requiring a 30-minute break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing this requirement to be satisfied while the driver is on duty instead of being off-duty.
  • Changing the sleeper berth exception so drivers can split the required 10 hours of off-duty time into two periods, either an 8/2 split or 7/3 split. Neither of these periods counts against the 14-hour driving window.
  • Extending the maximum window for driving in adverse conditions for two hours.
  • Extending the maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Driving a commercial truck for a living is already an intense job. These big rig operators face tremendous pressure to meet deadlines – if deadlines are missed, a lot of money is lost.

Unfortunately, the stress of meeting these tight delivery deadlines often results in drowsy driving. Driving fatigued, which is like driving while intoxicated, is extremely dangerous. Reaction time and judgment are affected, which can slow a driver’s ability to respond to issues on the road. Reaction time is particularly important when driving a commercial truck as it takes longer to stop than traditional passenger vehicles.

Fortunately for truckers, workers’ compensation claims are processed through a no-fault system. Even if the driver contributes to or causes an injury, he or she is likely still eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Avoiding Drowsy Driving

It is important for drivers to stick to the industry-standard guidelines for taking breaks and getting rest. These regulations are designed to keep truck drivers and others on the road safe.

When you do rest or sleep, there are steps you can take to help create a healthy sleeping environment. For example, block out light and noise. Find a parking spot that is quiet. Silence your smartphone and avoid checking messages or going on your computer right before trying to go to sleep. You can also lower the temperature in the cabin.

The food you eat can also make it more difficult to get any rest. Avoid spicy or heavy meals before going to bed. Caffeine can also make it more difficult to sleep.

The stresses of the job may be challenging but following these recommendations will help to protect your health while also providing another layer of safety while you are behind the wheel.

Call Today to Ask Your Workers’ Comp Questions

Berry, Smith & Bartell has helped many injured employees obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Our licensed attorneys have decades of combined experience and detailed knowledge of California’s workers’ compensation system.

Whether you have already filed a claim, are unsure if you may be eligible, or your claim has been denied, we may be able to assist you. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation to learn more about how we may be able to help.

There are no upfront fees for our services, and we are not paid unless you receive compensation.   

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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