FMCSA emergency declaration extended, expanded

December 2, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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An unprecedented move by the FMCSA to issue a federal hours-of-service waiver is now set to last nearly a year.

On Dec. 1, FMCSA extended its emergency declaration, which provides relief from hours-of-service regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, until Feb. 28, 2021. The agency made history when it granted the initial waiver on March 13.

FMCSA’s latest extension also expands relief to include the transportation of vaccines and medical supplies and equipment related to the prevention of COVID-19.

The emergency declaration provides relief to commercial motor vehicles providing direct assistance involving transportation of:

  • Livestock and livestock feed.
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
  • Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines related to the prevention 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.

“Direct 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,” the agency wrote.

The agency also emphasized that the declaration doesn’t give motor carriers the ability to make truckers haul a load even when they say they are tired.

“Motor carriers shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle,” FMCSA wrote. “A driver who informs a carrier that he or she needs immediate rest shall be given at least 10 consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.”

FMCSA’s previous extension had been scheduled to run out Dec. 31.

The addition to allow the transport of a COVID-19 vaccine is part of the Department of Transportation’s plan to get the vaccine to the public as soon as possible.

The DOT announced on Dec. 1 that it had taken regulatory measures to prepare for a quick transport.

“The Department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said in a news release.

Chao said that over the past several weeks DOT agencies and other officials have been coordinating with the private-sector companies that will carry the vaccines from the manufacturing facilities to the distribution centers and inoculation points.

 

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.