WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has officially granted relief from hours of service (HOS) regulations beginning Friday night for commercial vehicle drivers transporting commodities related to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The declaration specifically suspends Parts 390-399 of the Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, in which HOS is Part 395. This is the first time the FMCSA has issued a nationwide relief, and the announcement follows President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in response to the new coronavirus pandemic earlier in the day on Friday, March 13.
FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor-vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for health care worker, patient and community safety, sanitation and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
- Equipment, supplies and food for emergency restocking of stores;
- Persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19;
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes; and
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
Even though the order lifts restrictions on how long a driver can be behind the wheel, it provides protection for drivers who might be coerced by their employer to drive when tired.
“However, if the driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location,” the declaration reads. “Once the driver has returned to the terminal or other location, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers.”
Prior to this declaration, some states, such as Connecticut and Ohio, had already issued waivers to suspend hours of service restrictions for intrastate truck drivers. Now, this suspension extends to drivers traveling across the nation.
This declaration is effective immediately and willremain in effect until the termination of the emergency or until 11:59 p.m. on April 12, 2020, whichever occurs sooner.
To read the full declaration, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002.
Wendy Miller holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in strategic communications. Wendy has been a journalist and editor for nearly 15 years and has specialized in niche publications for the past eight years. Wendy draws her love for the trucking industry from growing up as a trucker’s daughter.