The growing threat of the COVID-19 outbreak means truckers hauling certain commodities will be exempt from hours of service regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Friday night, March 13, issued an emergency proclamation suspending federal hours of service regulations for interstate truckers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The agency said this is the first time it has issued such nation-wide relief.
The announcement came after President Donald Trump announced a national emergency in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak across the country. Trump’s announcement makes some $50 billion available to respond to the health crisis that has canceled numerous trucking events, canceled or postponed numerous national sporting events and led to the closing of numerous colleges, universities, and local schools.
A statement from the FMCSA says:
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities
- Equipment, supplies, food for emergency restocking of stores
- Persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
FMCSA said the emergency declaration stipulates 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.
Motor Carriers and drivers remain responsible for ensuring that drivers are receiving sufficient rest and are not operating fatigued. Drivers ought to check with their companies to determine if their loads qualify for hours of service exemptions.
The trucking industry has already seen disruption because of the growth of the coronavirus across the country. The Mid-America Trucking Show scheduled for later this month was canceled, as were several other trucking events and state trucking association gatherings. Officials at major national truck stop companies have said they are stepping up efforts to ensure the health and safety of guests and employees. Several are asking customers to not use personal refillable cups for beverages, and others have suspended their restaurant buffets.