Late in the evening on March 13th, the FMCSA issued an expanded emergency declaration that suspended some driver regulations including the Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirements.
After President Trump declared a national emergency over the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation followed it up with an emergency declaration of its own. Commercial truck drivers are now exempt from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations if they meet certain criteria. Those parts cover Hours of Service requirements, including the need to use and maintain an ELD.
Drivers are exempted from HOS regulations as long as they are providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts by transporting the following:
- 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;
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
- Immediate precursor raw materials-such as paper, plastic or alcohol-that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items in categories (1), (2) or (3);
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.
Further, the exemption does not apply to “routine commercial deliveries,” which includes “mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.”
A great deal of confusion followed the exemption announcement. For example, if a driver is bringing food or medical supplies as part of their normal routine, does that mean they do not qualify for an exemption?
As it turns out, that driver would be exempted, but FMCSA issued a FAQ page on March 19th to clear up some confusion.
The exemptions will last until midnight of April 12th, until they are extended, or until the state of national emergency ends, whichever happens first.