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December 1, 2021 1:45 PM, EST

FMCSA Extends HOS Waiver Through February Amid COVID-19 Concerns

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended regulatory waivers related to truckers’ allowable work time, citing public health concerns.

The waiver associated with commercial drivers’ maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles was extended through Feb. 28.

FMCSA explained, “although the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline in the U.S. following widespread introduction of vaccinations, persistent issues arising out of COVID-19 continue to affect the U.S. including impacts on supply chains and the need to ensure capacity to respond to variants and potential rises in infections.”

“Therefore, a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains,” FMCSA stated in announcing the extension to the regulatory waiver, which took effect Dec. 1. “This extension of the 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.”

Specifically, the hours-of-service waiver is applicable to commercial drivers and carriers tasked with directly providing relief services related to essential services, medical care and supplies that respond to COVID-19.

According to FMCSA, the waiver is limited to the transportation of livestock, as well as livestock feed, and medical supplies for the treatment of COVID-19.

It also is limited to vaccines, ancillary supplies and kits for the administration of vaccines, and supplies and equipment deemed necessary for public safety. Additionally, it pertains to masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants. It also pertains to food, certain paper products, emergency restocking of distribution hubs, and gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and ethyl alcohol.

Motor carriers or commercial drivers with out-of-service orders are not eligible for the regulatory waiver.

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Over the summer, FMCSA had issued an emergency declaration designed to offer relief from regulations related to maximum driving time provisions for property-carrying vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles.

To address national supply chain woes, the White House created a task force with the aim of adopting strategies designed to expedite the movement of freight. COVID-19 is credited with disrupting key aspects of commercial supply chains.

At an event in Minnesota on Nov. 30, President Joe Biden pointed to potential benefits from the enactment this month of a $1 trillion infrastructure law.

As he put it, “This law invests $42 billion to modernize our ports and our airports — the Port of Duluth is the largest port in the Great Lakes — or the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, one of the busiest airports in the Midwest — making it easier for companies to get goods to market, reducing supply chain bottlenecks, lowering costs for families, making sure that what you need gets to your ships, your trucks and trains, and eventually to your home on time.”

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