Right now, more than ever, we rely on our truck transportation infrastructure to keep our grocery stores stocked, as well as to hand off our online orders to delivery drivers. Current state-imposed stay-at-home orders do not apply to commercial truck drivers. The Illinois stay-at-home order excludes truck transportation activities that keep our pantries and refrigerators stocked.
With this added pressure to keep the national supply chain functioning, the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suspended the daily time limitation imposed on truck drivers as of March 14, 2020. This daily time limit typically imposes an 11-hour driving limit on a 14-hour workday for commercial truck drivers.
The suspension of the regulation permits truck drivers to drive as long and as far as required. This is an essential and important temporary suspension to keep our day-to-day lives as normal as possible. However, truck driver fatigue could be more of an issue than ever in Arlington Heights and throughout the state — and could lead to more accidents. So, why was this time limitation imposed in the first place?
The Deadly Results of Trucker Fatigue
Simply put, the daily time limit prevents commercial truck drivers from driving while fatigued. This is because driver fatigue often leads to serious and potentially lethal truck accidents.
Just last year, fatigue resulted in the death of an Illinois State Trooper. Trooper Brooke Jones-Story stopped another truck along the side of Illinois Highway 20, near Freeport, to conduct a routine inspection of the truck and trailer to ensure the truck’s road safety and lawfulness. While outside of her vehicle conducting the inspection, a fatigued truck driver drifted from the road onto the shoulder and struck Trooper Jones-Story, her squad car, and the truck that she was inspecting.
Later, Illinois state prosecutors criminally charged the driver with two counts of reckless homicide and one count of operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, all of which are felonies. The tragedy of this situation sent ripples through the state of Illinois as it was one of many Illinois State Police-involved accidents that resulted in the death or significant injury of a trooper. Frustrations surrounding this needless loss of life centered on how it is so easily prevented.
This tragic example of an accident that arose from truck driver fatigue in Arlington Heights raises concerns over the temporary suspension of these limitations.
Who Does the Temporary Suspension of Trucking Time Limits Apply to?
The suspension of this daily time limitation does not apply to all truck drivers. Commercial truckers carrying mixed loads that include some essential items are not allowed to utilize the limitation.
The emergency suspension only applies to truck drivers transporting medical equipment that will directly help our medical professionals test, treat, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic including the transportation of scarce personal protection equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and disinfectants. Other exemptions apply to truck drivers carrying food for the emergency restocking of grocery stores.
Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents in Arlington Heights
Even with this temporary suspension, employers expect commercial truck drivers to monitor their individual fatigue levels and request rest when they feel the onset of fatigue. After requested, employers must provide at least 10 consecutive days of rest.
Commercial truck transportation continues to provide a crucial supply chain service even amid a global pandemic. We recognize these truck drivers as some of the many unsung heroes that enable the rest of us to stay home safely to prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease.
However, truck accidents stemming from truck driver fatigue may increase in frequency in Arlington Heights as a result. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, call the compassionate attorneys at our firm today to discuss your legal options.