FMCSA Expands Hours of Service and Other Exemptions in Response to COVID-19
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued an emergency declaration that exempts motor carriers and drivers from federal regulations located at 49 CFR § 390.23, which includes the hours of service requirements, when providing "direct assistance" in support of relief efforts related to coronavirus (COVID-19). The Emergency Declaration was initially issued on March 13, and expanded on March 18 to, among other things, broaden the scope of what constitutes direct assistance. It now includes 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 are to be used for the manufacture of items in the previous categories
- 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
- persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response
There are exclusions. "[D]irect assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration." Furthermore, other motor carrier regulations are not exempted, including drug and alcohol testing requirements, commercial driver's license requirements, insurance requirements and hazardous material requirements.
Rest remains important for safety, even while making emergency deliveries. Drivers requesting immediate rest must be given at least 10 hours off duty. Even though the exempted regulations do not apply to direct assistance transportation, that does not mean that time spent driving under the exemption is the same as off-duty time: "Once the driver has returned to the terminal or the driver's normal reporting 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 8 hours if transporting passengers."
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact the author or your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer for timely advice.