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Federal regulators have extended a national emergency declaration order exempting carriers and truck drivers from certain hours-of-service (HOS) regulations until the last day of the year, December 31st.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declaration, issued in September, is the first multi-month extension of the HOS exemption since the order came in March in response to the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The five previous extensions lasted until the following month, with the most recent set to expire on September 14.

Why FMCSA Continued the Extension

The agency stated in its latest exemption order that it is “continuing the exemption because the presidentially declared national emergency remains in place and because a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains.” The extension addresses national emergency conditions that create the need for the immediate supply of essential items, such as PPE, and provides necessary relief from federal regulations for trucking carriers and truck drivers.

The new exemption gives drivers and carriers regulatory relief and flexibility to move certain cargo and products in support of efforts related to the coronavirus. This applies only to livestock and feed, medical supplies and equipment related to testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19, food, paper products, and other groceries for restocking, sanitation supplies and equipment.

The exemption covers parts 390 to 399 of the motor carrier regulations which, on top of HOS, includes inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles, parking rules, and employee safety.

What’s Left Out of the Emergency Declaration

The FMCSA made it a point to call out that direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a normal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the emergency declaration’s benefits.

The FMCSA also concluded that motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the national emergency are not granted relief from, and must continue to comply with, certain regulations and conditions.

These include:

  • A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while operating under this emergency declaration must report any recordable crash within 24 hours to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled.
  • Nothing in the declaration extension is an exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirements, the hazardous material regulations, applicable size and weight requirements, and the financial responsibility or trucking insurance requirements. Trucking companies need to ensure they are operating with the proper level of Trucking insurance to keep their drivers and cargo safe from significant claims. Emergency declaration or not, having trucking insurance is crucial to keep operations safe and running smoothly.
  • Motor carriers or truck drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this emergency declaration until they have met the right conditions for its rescission and the FMCSA has rescinded the order.

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