The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA ) has issued a nationwide emergency declaration, providing hours-of-service (HOS) regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
The HOS regulations, which have been in place since 1938, provide that a driver cannot drive for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. This is the first time in history that the HOS rules have been suspended at the federal level. The suspension will remain in effect until April 12, 2020, or until the end of the emergency. The emergency declaration provides relief from HOS requirements when truckers are providing direct assistance to meet the immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
- Immediate precursor raw materials—such as paper, plastic or alcohol—that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine.
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.
If drivers do not meet the above criteria, they must operate under the normal regulations.
To ensure continued safety on the nation’s roadways, the emergency declaration requires that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers.
Excluded from the temporary rules are drivers making routine commercial deliveries and those transporting mixed loads that include supplies, equipment, or people unrelated to the pandemic. Fleets cannot simply add a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief to a mixed load just to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration.
Further, the FMCSA issued a waiver extending commercial driver’s license and commercial learner’s permit validity, until June 30 for those that expire on or after March 1. Also, FMCSA notes many medical service providers have canceled regularly scheduled appointments, not allowing drivers to get appointments for DOT physicals with medical examiners. Accordingly, the requirement for drivers to have a medical exam or certification has been waived, so long as the drivers have proof of a valid medical certification that was issued for at least 90 days and expired on or after March 1. Fleets and drivers will have to check with their particular state officials about grace periods for license renewals during the crisis.
To read FMCSA’s expanded national emergency declaration, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/expanded-emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002.
While demands escalate and fleets continue to roll out to provide much needed supplies for the entire country, truckers are facing more difficulties on the road. The “Stay at Home” mandates by various states have forced the closure of many restaurants, rest stops and restrooms, depriving the truckers from much needed food and rest. The American Trucking Association is calling for more assistance for the truckers who are keeping the economy moving during the pandemic.