FMCSA Issues Emergency Declaration in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

Lindsey Bergeron

These exemptions are designed to help expedite the delivery of supplies and equipment that are needed for the relief effort and are only in effect for CMV drivers that are delivering these goods. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration last week in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Effective immediately, commercial motor vehicles that are delivering goods as part of the relief effort will be exempt from all hours of service regulations. This exemption will be in place until either the emergency is terminated, or until 11:59 PM on April 12, 2020 (whichever occurs sooner).

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This is the first time the agency has issued nationwide regulatory relief.

“Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen.

These exemptions are designed to help expedite the delivery of supplies and equipment that are needed for the relief effort and are only in effect for CMV drivers that are delivering these goods.  This includes:

  • Medical supplies and equipment used to test, diagnose and treat COVID-19
  • Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, disinfectants and other supplies required by our healthcare community to promote safety and prevent COVID-19 spread
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for the emergency restocking of distribution centers and stores
  • Precursor raw materials like paper, plastic or alcohol
  • The equipment, supplies and people needed to establish and manage temporary housing and quarantine facilities
  • Personnel to provide medical or other emergency assistance

While relief drivers may operate an unladen CMV back to the terminal under the exemption, they must adhere to all of their normal hours of service regulations if they’re transporting cargo that doesn’t meet the criteria above.

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Also important to note, is that drivers still have the right to adequate rest under the declaration. Once the delivery is complete, property-carrying drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty while passenger carriers must receive at least 8 hours off duty. Drivers also have the right to inform their carrier if they need immediate rest and the carrier must comply by providing the same 8 or 10 hours of off-duty time (for passenger or property carrying vehicles, respectively).

Lastly, while this declaration waives hours of service regulations for relief drivers,no exemptions have been issued for DOT drug testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable weight and size requirements or any other regulation that is not specifically exempted under 49 CFR 390.23.

About the Author

Lindsey Bergeron is Editor of the Foley blog. Serving as transportation guru, she keeps an eye on the industry and its day-to-day evolution and developments, specifically writing about the various lifestyle, business and regulatory topics that are most relevant to motor carriers. Holding a degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Connecticut, she ran a successful content marketing firm before joining Foley at its Hartford hub. Her current expertise in transportation writing is built upon an extensive background in editing, feature writing and content development.

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