How has Trucking Changed During COVID-19?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Raymond Hatcher with Sloan Firm.
With the COVID-19 pandemic came many restrictions, including the way goods are purchased. Groceries and other items which would traditionally have been purchased in store have seen many people ordering online as a result of social distancing restrictions and health concerns. With online orders comes the need for those ordered goods to be shipped all over the country. The trucking industry was already essential to the infrastructure of the United States, and since the pandemic has become even more so.
With this new reliance on ordering and shipping common goods, the trucking industry is busier than ever.
This has resulted in more trucks spending more time on the road than previously, with a new pressure to deliver goods as quickly as possible. Due to the inherent strain of a job which requires them to spend long hours on the road at all hours of the day and night, truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to take periodic rest breaks after driving for a certain number of hours. This is for the health and safety of the truck driver as well as anyone else sharing the road with one of these tractor-trailers.
Fatigued driving is one of the biggest risks faced by truck drivers.
Driving while fatigued is dangerous in any vehicle, but is particularly so in a vehicle as large as a semi truck or 18-wheeler. Truck drivers have an even higher responsibility to drive safely than drivers of a standard passenger vehicle are expected to. However, with increased pressure from trucking companies to keep trucks out on the roads, moving freight and increasing profits at all times due to increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, truck drivers are facing a difficult choice.
As a general rule, if a truck is not moving, it isn’t making money.
While most truck drivers are highly trained and responsible individuals, when a truck driver does on occasion make the choice to forego mandatory rest requirements and causes an accident due to driving fatigued or distracted, the consequences can be catastrophic. With so many trucks on the road, it is impossible to know whether the truck driving next to you is being operated by a well-rested individual following industry safety regulations, or whether it is being operated by a driver under the influence of industry pressure due to the pandemic. With this in mind, it is important to exercise an extra level of caution when sharing the road with a large truck.
Tips for driving safely around large trucks or 18-wheelers include the following:
- Stay out of the “No-Zone”. The “no zone” refers to blind spots around a large truck where it is unsafe for others to drive due to the lack of visibility. These zones include the areas to the back left of the truck, back right of the truck, and directly behind the truck.
- Use caution when passing. It is important to give large trucks as much space as possible when passing or doing anything else which might require you or them to stop quickly if something goes wrong. Signal adequately in advance of the intended move and don’t get back in front of the truck until you can see them in your rearview mirror.
- Give space. It’s a good idea to stay several hundred feet away when you find yourself behind a large truck. This helps keep your vehicle out of their blind spot, and if traffic comes to a stop, could prevent the truck from rolling back into your vehicle.
- Expect wide turns. Large trucks often have warning signs plastered on the back to warn other drivers that their vehicle makes wide turns. Give extra room in your lane as necessary to ensure large trucks on either side have a cushion of room to turn without worrying about clipping your own or another vehicle.
- Don’t text and drive. This is dangerous in any situation. If you are looking at your phone when a large truck is attempting to merge into your lane and may not see you in their blindspot, your vehicle could be struck.
- Don’t drive under the influence. This applies to driving with or without a large truck on the road. Driving under the influence slows down a driver’s ability to react to obstacles and affects their perception of the surrounding environment. A driver may think they are out of a truck’s “no-zone” or that they have plenty of time to slow down, but it could be just the opposite.
It is important to exercise caution and drive respectfully, especially when sharing the road with the large trucks helping the country to continue to function during the pandemic. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident with a large truck, reach out to a truck accident attorney to discuss your options for recovery.