On March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief supplies in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus, also referred to as “the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” first identified in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019.
Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are being granted emergency relief from Hours of Service regulations. The FMCSA issued its emergency declaration in response to President Trump’s March 13 declaration of a national emergency.
FMCSA’s emergency relief is intended to meet immediate needs for transporting:
- 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;
- Food for emergency restocking of stores;
- Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19;
- Persons, designated by Federal, State, or local authorities, who must be transported for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
“This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said in an agency statement. “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.”
Once a driver has returned to the terminal or other location after transporting emergency personnel or supplies, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
If a driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location.
The emergency Hours of Service relief does not include routine commercial deliveries, or transportation of mixed loads that include essential supplies, equipment and persons, along with supplies, equipment, and persons not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Hours of Service Rule at OMB
On August 22, 2019, the FMCSA proposed changes to the Hours of Service regulations providing greater flexibility for both long- and short-haul drivers. A final rule now is undergoing regulatory review at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The changes proposed last summers would give commercial motor vehicle drivers the flexibility to shift their work and drive time to accommodate traffic and weather conditions, as well as down time while trucks are being loaded or unloaded.