COVID-19, Transportation

FMCSA Extends and Modifies COVID-19 Emergency Declaration

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended but narrowed trucking regulation exemptions under its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency declaration. Deputy Administrator Jim Murren extended the exemptions for 50 states and the District of Columbia to July 14.

Truck on the road

The declaration grants emergency relief from certain requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 CFR Parts 390 through 399) for drivers transporting critical aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

The extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 provides regulatory relief for drivers and motor carriers providing direct aid in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19. The exemptions are limited to the transportation of livestock and livestock feed; medical supplies and equipment for the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19; and supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as disinfectants, gloves, masks, and soap and hand sanitizer.

The emergency declaration does not provide regulatory relief for those transporting routine commercial deliveries or mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief supplies.

The extended emergency declaration no longer covers the transportation of the following:

  • Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  • Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of stores and distribution centers;
  • Immediate precursor raw materials, such as paper, plastic, or alcohol, required for the manufacture of disinfectants, gloves, masks, and soap and hand sanitizer;
  • Liquefied gases used in refrigeration or cooling systems;
  • Persons designated by federal, state, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  • Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.

The declaration also reminded drivers and motor carriers that it did not provide exemptions from controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirements, commercial driver’s license requirements, insurance (financial responsibility) requirements, hazardous material regulations, and size and weight requirements.

If a driver is involved in a crash while operating under the emergency declaration, the motor carrier must report any recordable crash within 24 hours, by phone or in writing, to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The motor vehicle crash report must include the date, the time, the location, the driver, the vehicle identification, and a brief description of the crash.

The FMCSA emphasized that motor carriers must not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A driver informing a motor carrier of an immediate need for rest must be given at least 10 consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.

The agency also stated that motor carriers and drivers must comply with the following:

  • Requirements to operate a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with state laws and regulations, including compliance with applicable speed limits and other traffic restrictions (49 CFR §392.2);
  • Regulations barring operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause as to make it unsafe for the driver to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle (49 CFR §392.3); and
  • Prohibition of texting while driving and using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving (49 CFR §§392.80 and 392.82).