FMCSA Wants Input on Extending Its COVID Emergency Declaration

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on whether the safety and supply chain benefits of its COVID-19 national emergency declaration merit extending the current declaration after it expires Oct. 15.

The agency said it wants to know the extent to which motor carriers rely on the emergency declaration to “deliver certain commodities and whether there has been any impact on safety.”

FMCSA in a Sept. 7 Federal Register post said it would like to see any data or information it should use in determining whether continued extension or modification of the declaration is needed, and on the safety and supply chain impacts of the emergency declaration.

“The agency seeks public comment on the usage of the emergency declaration for the covered products,” it said. “Specifically, if the usage is fit for the intended purpose of the limited relief. Commenters are encouraged to share with the agency the source of the data or information and provide recommendations on additional actions the agency should consider in monitoring the use of the declaration.”

The agency said it will receive comments on the declaration information request through Sept. 21.

FMCSA first issued the emergency declaration in March 2020, and has extended it periodically for more than two years as the pandemic has persisted.

The original declaration provides hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting essential supplies and equipment needed for carriers and drivers to keep food on grocery store shelves and medicine available for treatment at hospitals and with physicians and nurses.

It also provided for the continued transport of supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.

However, the expanded declaration stipulates that 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, the agency said.

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FMCSA said it believes the emergency declaration and subsequent extensions have provided the transportation industry essential regulatory relief in supporting the nation’s efforts to address the challenges associated with responding to the COVID-19 emergency. Since September 2021, FMCSA has requested that motor carriers operating under the emergency declaration report certain information to the agency.

“This information included the number of trips conducted under the declaration and the commodities transported,” the agency said. “Based on a review of the carriers’ self-reported information, the primary categories of commodities transported under the declaration are: food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores; and livestock and livestock feed.”

FMCSA said that two categories that have seen the usage between October 2021 and July 2022 decrease by almost 50%: medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; and supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID.