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June 9, 2020 3:45 PM, EDT

FMCSA Extends, Modifies HOS Emergency Declaration

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended and modified its emergency declaration for motor carriers that are providing direct assistance in support of coronavirus-related relief efforts.

The agency announced June 8 that the modified declaration will take effect June 15 and remain in place through July 14. This modification scales back some of the trucking operations that were covered under the earlier exemption, which previously was extended through June 14. The initial emergency declaration was issued March 13, and then expanded March 18.

RELATED: FMCSA Publishes Final HOS Rule, Granting Flexibility to Drivers

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.

The modified emergency declaration allows regulatory relief for drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts related to the virus and is limited to transportation of:

  •  Livestock and livestock feed.
  •  Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of 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.

Direct assistance refers to transportation and relief services provided by a carrier or its drivers associated with the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies related to COVID-19. 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 this emergency declaration.”

The previous versions of the emergency declaration stipulated relief for a wider variety of goods, including fuel, raw materials, paper products and groceries.

“FMCSA has concluded that there is no longer a need for emergency relief with respect to the other categories of supplies, equipment and persons covered by the May 13 extension and expansion of [the] emergency declaration, and those categories are therefore no longer covered,” the emergency declaration document states.

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.

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