The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended and expanded its emergency declaration providing regulatory relief to truck drivers who are transporting emergency supplies during the coronavirus outbreak.
The notice, which was issued yesterday, April 8, 2020, states that the emergency declaration for all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be effective through May 15.
The original declaration was put in place on March 13 and was to remain in effect until April 12.
The FMCSA’s declaration grants exemption from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This includes hours of service (HOS), parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles.
The FMCSA notice states that, “Because emergency conditions have not abated, FMCSA is extending [the] emergency declaration and associated regulatory relief.” “This extension of the emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment and persons, and provides necessary relief from the FMCSRs for motor carriers and drivers engaged in the transport of essential supplies, equipment and persons.”
In addition to extending the time frame for the declaration, the notice also expands on the already once expanded HOS exemption list, adding the transportation of liquefied gases used in refrigeration or cooling systems.
The first expansion to the HOS emergency declaration offering relief for drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts to meet 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 or quarantine.
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.
The FMCSA has made it very clear that the emergency declaration does not change any traffic or safety laws drivers are expected to abide by, such as speed limits. Drivers are also still required to continue following FMCSA rules and requirements related to commercial driver licenses, drugs and alcohol, hazardous materials, size, weight and registration requirements.
Motor carriers are not allowed to force or even authorize a fatigued driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle. In an instance where a driver makes it known to a carrier that he or she needs rest, the driver must be given at least 10 consecutive hours before returning to service.