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December 1, 2020 2:00 PM, EST

DOT Makes Preparations Ahead of COVID-19 Vaccine Transport

FMCSA Extends HOS Declaration
Vaccine photo by Getty“The department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said. (Meyer & Meyer/Getty Images)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended and expanded its emergency declaration offering hours-of-service relief to truckers in order to facilitate transport of the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines.

The declaration, which has been extended to Feb. 28, applies to truck drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“FMCSA is helping lead the way to allow for an efficient and effective distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. “The agency is continuing to provide additional regulatory relief to our nation’s truckers to get critically important medical supplies, food and household goods to Americans in need.”

Like its previous iterations, the declaration applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It continues the exemption from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which cover hours of service, parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles.

Regulatory relief for commercial drivers is allowed for:

  • Vaccines, medical supplies and equipment, including kits for the administration of vaccines.
  • Medical supplies associated with testing, diagnosing and treating 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.
  • Livestock and livestock feed.
  • Food, paper products and groceries for emergency restocking at distribution centers or stores.

According to FMCSA’s notice, direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads “with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration.”

RELATED: Truck Drivers Could Be Among Earliest to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

FMCSA’s action builds on a Dec. 1 announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicating that the agency has taken regulatory measures to facilitate the safe and rapid transport of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Operation Warp Speed aims to produce and deliver at least 300 million doses of vaccines.

The first supply of vaccines should be available before the end of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As supply increases, CDC anticipates all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.

Elaine Chao

Chao

“The department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

According to DOT’s announcement, federal transportation agencies and Operation Warp Speed officials have spent the past several weeks coordinating with private sector companies that will carry vaccines from manufacturing plants to distribution centers and inoculation points. In the aviation sector, DOT has issued emergency regulatory relief for flight crews and aviation entities to facilitate uninterrupted flight operations and respond to heavy air cargo demand.

Since the pandemic’s onset, DOT agencies have been active in helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and offering relief to those who work in the transportation industry. In addition to offering HOS relief, FMCSA has contributed to the distribution of more than 3 million face coverings.

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