featureWASHINGTON — In anticipation of approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that all necessary regulatory measures have been taken to ensure safe, rapid mass transport of the vaccine by land and air, the agency announced Dec. 1. The development and approval process for the vaccine has been accelerated through Operation Warp Speed.
“The department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Over the last several weeks, DOT agencies and Operation Warp Speed officials have coordinated with the private-sector companies that will carry the vaccines from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and inoculation points. The DOT has established the appropriate safety requirements for all potential hazards involved in shipping the vaccine, including standards for the dry ice and lithium batteries used in cooling.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the DOT has worked to support critical supply-chain networks by granting a nationwide exemption to hours-of-service regulations for trucking companies and commercial drivers that are providing direct emergency assistance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s long-standing emergency declaration was recently extended to support emergency transportation of vaccines and medical supplies, as well as equipment related to the prevention of COVID-19.
In addition, DOT has worked with other U.S. government agencies, air carriers and aviation stakeholders to ensure the continued transport of critical medical supplies and personnel in support of Project Air Bridge. The DOT issued emergency regulatory relief for flight crews and other aviation entities to support uninterrupted flight operations and respond to increased air cargo demand.
In October, the FAA COVID-19 Vaccine Air Transport Team was established as part of the DOT’s effort to support the safe and expedited transportation and distribution of approved COVID-19 vaccines, including providing support to Operation Warp Speed. Key to this effort has been coordination with the Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials.