In response to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak across the globe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued an expanded national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers on 18th March 2020. These expanded hours are however applicable to only those drivers that transport emergency supplies corresponding with COVID-19.
The expanded declaration by the FMCSA renders relief to commercial motor vehicles (CMV) operations underpinning emergency attempts solely for the current needs of the outbreak. For instance:
- Transporting equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment or any other medical supply of COVID -19
- Raw material like plastic, paper, alcohol, etc. essential for the manufacturing of essential commodities.
- Individuals and equipment supplies necessary for maintaining temporary quarantine.
- Designated persons by federal, state or local authorities for quarantine or medical isolation.
- Persons necessary for provision of medical of emergency service.
- Community safety related commodities and supplies like sanitation and preventive measure material to cease community transmission like disinfectants, gloves, hand sanitizers, masks, soaps, etc.
- Transportation for restocking of basic commodities like food, paper products and other groceries, to distribution centres and local shops.
The expanded declaration has been set forth with a precondition that it does not apply to routine commercial deliveries. Therefore, routine commercial deliveries or deliveries with a minimal amount of material that qualifies for emergency requirement or mixed load are not granted advantage of this expanded declaration.
It is also a mandate that a driver transporting property must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty and a driver transporting passengers must receive a minimum of 8 hours off-duty, after completing a single delivery.
“Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce,” the declaration said.
“Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399,” has also been stated by the declaration.
It is also important to note that motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not permitted to benefit from the relief granted by this declaration. However, if the aforementioned has the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA, they might as well adhere to the expanded declaration.
The FMCSA has stated that it is for the first time in history that they have issued nationwide relief through its emergency declaration. They have also followed President Donald Trump issuing a national emergency declaration in response to the virus.
“The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement.
“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food and household goods to Americans in need,” FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen said in a statement. “We will continue to support them and use our authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
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