Emergency Declaration Exempts Commercial Truck Drivers and Motor Carriers During COVID-19

FMCSA Provides Hours of Service Exemption for Drivers Providing Relief to Coronavirus Outbreak

white freight truck

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to force action by both state and federal governments, an emergency declaration was issued to allow industries like commercial motor vehicle operations to continue without strict compliance with federal regulations related to the hours of service for specific CDL drivers in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

On March 18, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration granting emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”) for motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to relief efforts during this pandemic, in response to the President declaring a nationwide state of emergency.

The Emergency Declaration outlines what qualifies as providing “direct assistance” and expressly excludes routine commercial deliveries, even those mixed-loads that contain a nominal quantity of goods that would qualify as assisting with emergency relief.

While a commercial vehicle driver is providing direct assistance pursuant to the Emergency Declaration, none of the hours of service regulations under the FMCSR are applicable. This includes any “break” requirements, and the hours worked while providing the direct assistance do not count toward the 60/70-hour rule. If a driver requests a need for rest, the motor carrier is required to provide the driver with at least 10 hours of off-duty time. However, on all occasions when a driver returns from a direct assistance delivery, the motor carrier must relieve the driver of all responsibilities and obligations for a period of 10 hours if transporting property and 8 hours if transporting passengers. The driver is further exempt from record-keeping requirements, including written logbooks or ELD. Once the driver has completed the direct assistance under the Emergency Declaration, the driver must once again comply with all requirements of Parts 390 through 399 of the FMCSR, except that the driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or their normal reporting location without following these regulations.

FMCSA Emergency Declaration includes the following commercial motor vehicle operations:

  1. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  2. 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;
  3. Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  4. 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);
  5. Fuel;
  6. Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  7. Personnel designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes;
  8. Personnel necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.

Although the Emergency Declaration does not require any particular documentation to verify that the driver is operating under the exemption, maintaining ordinary business records, like the bill of lading, may help provide verification during an inspection or enforcement action. The Emergency Declaration was effective immediately and remains in effect until the emergency has terminated, or April 12, 2020, whichever is sooner.

Read the full text of the FMCA’s Expanded Emergency Declaration.

Author:
Lauren Mathews is a member of the Transportation Practice Group. She assists transportation and logistics companies with the full range of business challenges related to the process of moving people, products, and goods. Contact Lauren at (724) 776-8000 or lmathews@lynchlaw-group.com for more information.
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