FMCSA emergency declaration outlined for drivers

March 16, 2020

Land Line Staff


In response to FMCSA’s national emergency declaration to provide commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency supplies relief from hours-of-service regulations, numerous OOIDA members have asked questions about how the declaration affects them.

The declaration provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
  • Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
  • Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.

The emergency declaration stipulates that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.


Does this apply to me? What types of loads qualify? What paperwork do I need?

The declaration applies only to direct assistance efforts and does not include routine commercial deliveries or the transportation of mixed loads that include relief supplies.

OOIDA said that unless a driver has been notified that the loads are for emergency assistance, then they likely don’t qualify. However, loads that are for emergency restocking or other coronavirus related purposes would qualify. Any notifications from customers indicating that they need supplies in response to the coronavirus would help show that direct assistance is being provided.

FMCSA provides the following guidance:

“There are not specific requirements to identify a vehicle operating under an emergency declaration or for paperwork that must be carried on the vehicle. However, drivers should be prepared to explain to law enforcement officers how their shipment qualifies under the emergency provisions.”

Do I need to log my hours?

Drivers who qualify under the emergency declaration are not required to log hours while providing direct assistance. OOIDA recommends that drivers keep track of their total time providing direct assistance. Drivers also are expected to use good judgment and not operate vehicles if fatigued or ill, or under any conditions presenting a clear hazard to other motorists on the highway.

Am I still exempt while returning empty from delivering an exempt load?

“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 (of the regulations),” the emergency declaration stated. “However, a driver who informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to such terminal or location. Once the driver has returned to the terminal or other 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 eight hours if transporting passengers.”

Additional info

FMCSA also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding emergency declarations. You can find that here.

FMCSA guidance on relief from regulations can be found here.

The declaration is active until April 12 or the termination of the emergency – whichever comes first.