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February 16, 2021 11:15 AM, EST

FMCSA Extends Emergency Declaration Through May 31

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has again extended its emergency declaration offering regulatory relief to truckers involved in coronavirus-related assistance efforts.

The declaration, which has been extended to May 31, applies to commercial motor vehicle drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This extension of the expanded modified emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations] for motor carriers and drivers,” FMCSA’s notice states.

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 the transportation of:

  • Livestock and livestock feed.
  • Medical supplies associated with testing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19.
  • Vaccines, medical supplies and equipment, including kits for the administration of vaccines.
  • 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 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.”

FMCSA emphasized that the emergency declaration does not grant drivers relief from regulations such as speed limits. Drivers are not exempt from requirements relating to commercial driver licenses, drugs and alcohol, hazardous materials, and size and weight requirements.

Motor carriers cannot require or allow a fatigued driver to operate a truck. A driver who informs a carrier that he or she needs immediate rest must be given at least 10 consecutive hours before returning to service.

Extension of the Expanded M... by Transport Topics

The agency’s extension is the latest in a series of notices that have been distributed since the initial emergency declaration was issued March 13, 2020. FMCSA acting Administrator Meera Joshi indicated in the notice that the agency plans to “wind down” regulatory exemptions.

“In the interest of ensuring continued commercial motor vehicle safety, it is FMCSA’s intention to wind down the exemptions granted under this emergency declaration and related COVID-19 regulatory relief measures to the extent possible,” the notice states.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Joshi’s appointment Jan. 21, the day after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Joshi previously served as commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is the agency in charge of licensing and regulating the city’s medallion taxicabs, for-hire vehicles, commuter vans and paratransit vehicles.

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