The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended an emergency declaration that provides regulatory and hours-of-service relief to commercial drivers who transport emergency relief supplies during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Originally issued on March 13 with an expiration on April 12, government officials extended the FMCSA emergency declaration through June 14th.
The declaration is an historic first for FMCSA. Officials have issued statewide or regional declarations in the past for areas impacted by a natural disaster. But this is the first time they have issued a national declaration.
The FMCSA emergency declaration gives drivers temporary relief from having to comply with certain provisions of federal law pertaining to hours of service and vehicle inspections.
What the FMCSA Emergency Declaration Provides Drivers
The FMCSA emergency declaration applies to commercial vehicle operations that provide direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts. The government defines direct assistance in the order as “transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as food, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the emergency.”
The FMCSA emergency declaration covers drivers employed to transport:
- 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 for emergency restocking of stores
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.
In the extension of the emergency declaration, FMCSA expanded the rules to cover transportation of liquefied petroleum gases for use in refrigeration or cooling systems. These systems are needed for temporary morgues and HVAC systems needed for proper function of airborne infection isolation rooms.
It’s important to note that the FMCSA emergency declaration does not cover routine commercial deliveries or mixed loads that include essential supplies, equipment and persons, but also includes supplies, equipment and persons not associated with COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.
Direct assistance ends when the driver is called back into service for routine commercial deliveries.
Other States Add Rules
Some states also have offered relief for drivers. For example, Michigan is exempting vehicles used for direct assistance related to COVID-19 from seasonal weight restrictions. Texas also has made direct assistance vehicles exempt from some weight restrictions. A list of what some states have done is available at Trucking Info.
The extended FMCSA emergency declaration also clarifies that drivers transporting direct assistance loads must comply with speed limits and must:
- Not engage in impaired driving triggered by fatigue, illness or other causes
- Report crashes within 24 hours to a FMCSA Division Office
- Get at least 10 consecutive hours of rest before returning to service
- Comply with controlled substance and alcohol use and testing requirements
- Maintain insurance requirements
- Meet hazardous material regulations
Meet applicable size and weight requirements unless waived by states