Our reliance on truck drivers and delivery drivers has never been greater than it has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. Undoubtedly, the trucking and delivery industries are essential to Florida’s economy at all times. But now, amid this pandemic, many consider these industries and their personnel to be superheroes who can do no wrong, even where industry leaders may choose to take shortcuts on safety in order to meet current demand and industry pressures. And, while there may be fewer motorists on Florida’s roadways in recent months as a whole, anecdotally speaking it seems safe to say that the trucking and delivery industries have an increased presence – and perhaps a prevalence – on Florida’s roadways.
COVID-19 has turned life upside down almost overnight for most Floridians. This includes these truck drivers and delivery drivers who are likely to be relieved to have employment, but who also risk placing themselves and their families in harm’s way from exposure to the virus every day they work, just as many other essential, heroic workers do across the country and the world. While most of Florida has been in a “safer at home” scenario in past months, like medical providers and first responders, truck drivers and delivery drivers do not have the luxury of staying home.
Not only are delivery drivers and truck drivers continuing to work to support themselves and their families, but they are undoubtedly placing themselves at risk of exposure to the virus, oftentimes with limited ability to practice social-distancing during stops or to keep their hands free of germs that can spread infectious disease. Being behind the wheel or in under-sanitized and face-to-face environments for long periods of time with little or no ability to maintain proper hygiene undoubtedly adds to the stress and anxiety these folks experience. While many older drivers have been forced into choosing to retire now rather than to risk their health and safety by continuing to drive, and while many others simply have chosen not to risk personal or family exposure by continuing to drive for these industries, these industries may be forced into filling driver demand by hiring inexperienced, unqualified, or underqualified drivers in order to meet the pressures and demands now being placed on these essential industries.
Truck drivers and delivery drivers who remain employed in these industries are undoubtedly concerned about their own health and safety. They are concerned about the health and safety of their work colleagues and their loved ones. If they or their family members are in poor or compromised health, these folks will likely experience more heightened anxieties about working due to the increased potential for exposing themselves and their families to infection. This means that many truck drivers and delivery drivers are being forced to weigh the risks of remaining employed or seeking employment in these industries, versus the financial risks of staying at home or losing their positions.
Truck drivers and delivery drivers already face many distractions while driving due to technology, cellular devices, regulatory compliance, mapping delivery destinations, and the industry pressures of timely and expeditious delivery of goods and contractual obligations. These potential driving distractions that already confront these industries become magnified due to these personal health and financial anxieties experienced by drivers who now must also be concerned with protecting themselves and their families from being exposed to an unknown and uncertain disease and who may also be facing the prospect of economic hardship.
On top of this, on March 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expanded an earlier national emergency declaration granting temporary exemption to truck drivers and other commercial drivers from federal hours-of-service regulations when transporting items intended to help in the COVID-19 relief effort.
Trucking industry safety insiders have noted that fatigued driving does not discriminate between a crisis and normal times. The takeaway is that industry leaders and safety advocates acknowledge that instances of fatigued and distracted driving or forced dispatch of drivers may increase due to the factors outlined in this article.
It is worth noting that it is not always the truck drivers or the delivery drivers who are ultimately responsible when a collision occurs. Oftentimes it is a breakdown or a failure of the employer or the trucking or delivery company to have safety systems and protocols in place that are designed to ensure oversight, leadership, and the safe operation of vehicles. Those overseeing and dispatching truck drivers, commercial vehicle drivers, and delivery drivers must ensure that the overall health and safety of all motorists and all of their drivers is paramount, and they must insist on prioritizing a focus on safety over the pressures of particular assignments and the delivery of goods. This means coaching drivers, providing resources for drivers, calling time-outs for drivers, and communicating with drivers to better understand their concerns and fears so that safety and performance outweighs driving mistakes. A recognition and balancing of these concerns and considerations will better protect Floridians and these essential industries.
Our lawyers and staff at Romano Law Group salute and thank all of the brave men and women who are not at home – including our truck drivers and delivery drivers, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, first responders, state and local government and judicial leaders, food store and restaurant personnel.
The Romano Law Group’s trucking and automotive crash team has decades of combined experience responding to, investigating, and handling truck and delivery driver crash cases in Florida and across the country. The firm has established protocols to assist victims of truck crashes and delivery driver crashes who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being involved in such crashes, including the investigation and preservation of evidence related to industry pressures and lack of safety measures being taken by employers of delivery drivers and motor carriers that result in factors that contribute to such crashes.