Long-haul trucking is any form of truck driving that involves drivers spending a night or two away from their home as their destination is too far to travel in a day.
So much of society depends on long-haul truck drivers, but they are at a disadvantage due to the hazardous nature of their work, especially in a pandemic. Now is the best time for them to know their rights. This legal guide covers the basics of how they are protected under the law in the time of corona.
Employers have a responsibility to prevent and reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The first thing long-haul truck drivers must know is that they are protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, whether there is a pandemic or not. The act’s main objective is to ensure that employers create a safe working environment. It should be free from recognized hazards, including exposure to mechanical dangers, toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. So if a worker becomes infected while on duty, the employer may face penalties.
Since March 2020, numerous employment lawsuits based on COVID-19–related claims have popped up in various parts of the country and continue to increase at a rapid pace each week. Now more than ever, employers have a responsibility to ensure workplace safety for their employees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued guidelines on how employers can protect their employees against transmission. For the long-haul trucking industry, employers are required to have a COVID-19 response plan to protect drivers. The guidelines included specific steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if a driver is infected.
Employers must actively encourage sick drivers to stay home, and those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 must not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met. Employers must also provide drivers with accurate information about how the disease spreads and its risks of exposure. Personal protective equipment (PPE), alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and small trash cans for the truck cabs must also be provided.
Employers are also called upon to maintain a healthy work environment, such as developing policies to encourage contactless deliveries, disinfecting truck cabs and workspaces, and following all applicable local, state, and federal regulations and public health agency guidelines. They also have to maintain healthy business operations, such as making a plan for drivers to know how and where to seek medical assistance in case they feel sick during a drive.
Long-haul truck drivers have the right to adequate sleep and rest.
Most countries have laws designed to protect employees from being physically harmed at work, and the trucking industry is no exception. Employees are legally obligated to schedule driver routes that allow for adequate sleep and rest.
Regulations exist to protect drivers from possible accidents. A tired driver is a danger to the road. And with the current COVID-19 situation, employers have more incentive to protect truckers from being overworked as studies show that lack of sleep can affect one’s immune system, leaving them more susceptible to all kinds of viruses.
The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and compulsory breaks. According to the rules set by the United States Department of Transportation, drivers are allowed a seven-day workweek but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven-day work period. Long-haul truckers can drive for up to 11 hours during one duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes.
Just because there are fewer cars on the road due to the lockdowns doesn’t mean truck drivers are less prone to accidents. Fewer vehicles mean a tendency for drivers to over-speed, which in turn can result in more accidents. Consult with a truck accident attorney to determine what negligence on the part of employers can potentially cause accidents.
All jobs in the world involve some occupational hazards, but long-haul truck drivers have a harder job than most people realize. They leave their families for long periods. It is an extremely dangerous job and one that poses a lot of risks not just to the truckers themselves but to other vehicles on the road as well. Long-haul truckers contribute so much to society, and yet not a lot of people know about the challenges they go through, and how much they risk their health and safety to deliver essential goods and services. In the time of corona, they must know their rights, so they can keep themselves protected from disease and accidents. The functioning of society hangs in the balance.