Understanding the Coronavirus Hours-of-Service Regulations
In 1938, the Unites States federal government implemented the so-called hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers to reduce fatigued driving as well as accidents that result.
This month, President Trump announced a public health emergency to deal with the coronavirus infection effectively.
And, as a result, the Transportation Department, therefore, excluded some truckers from HOS regulations.
This type of regulatory relief occurred at the state level before, states pausing drive-time limits during natural hazards.
And Connecticut and Ohio did so again for this existing health emergency. However, in the legislation’s 82-year history, the federal government has never done so.
Who is Affected by The Directive?
The coronavirus exemption would not extend to any truck or truck driver on the route.
However, it will extend to those who already distribute emergency supplies and workers who help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The HOS system allows truck drivers to drive up to 11 hours in any 14 hours, and a driver can do up to eight hours consecutively in that 11 hours before being forced to stop for at least 30 minutes.
The truck driver needs to start taking a ten-hour break after 14 hours, and eight out of those ten hours have to be spent in the cabin, presumably sleeping.
There is quite a range of loopholes or workarounds; however, the HOS is not limited to calendar days; a truck driver might drive for five hours, take a 10-hour break, then hit the road for 11 hours.
In the new system, truckers will have to take a 10-hour off-duty rest after freight is delivered, or eight hours when passengers drop off.
The condition remains in place until the government declares the emergency to be ended or until 11:59 p.m. April 12, 2020, whichever first comes.
Why The Truck-Driving Limits Suspension?
In response to the national coronavirus outbreak, U.S. highway safety authorities are relaxing regulations that restrict regular driving times for truckers carrying emergency supplies like those of medical supplies, hand sanitizer as well as food.
The FMCSA confirmed the federal exemption following the implementation of a public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic by President Trump.
The change “would enable truck drivers to get those vital items quicker and more effectively into infected areas,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen.
This HOS Exemption comes into effect as hospitals experience medical mask shortages, and as distributors and suppliers struggle under-demand for everything from hand sanitizers to staples like toilet paper and rice.
As impatient customers hoard goods, grocers have resorted to rationing, implementing disinfectant wipes purchasing limits, cleaning materials as well as other high demand items.
The change would be the first time the FMCSA has granted national exemption from hours-of-service requirements, while local declarations in response to disasters like hurricanes have waived such regulations.
The Federal Emergency Regulations Declaration
Federal rules restrict several commercial vehicle drivers to 11 hours on the road in a 14-hour working day, and this limitation intended to reduce road fatigue accidents.
The exemption announced by the national emergency refers to carriers providing direct assistance to disaster linked to the coronavirus pandemic, such as transporting medical supplies and equipment for Covid-19 testing, diagnosing, and treatment.
This exemption announced also applies to those goods that are transported to try and prevent the virus spread, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants.
The declaration also protects drivers from bringing “food for emergency store restocking.”
The HOS exemption also extends to motor carriers transporting providers of medical and emergency services, people required to develop and maintain temporary housing and quarantine facilities and people traveling for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
However, this exception declaration does not apply to commercial routine deliveries or to truckers carrying mixed loads, which include necessary supplies. Drivers requiring urgent rest must be given at least ten consecutive off-duty hours.
Full Lists of the Coronavirus Hours-of-Service Exemptions
The FMCSA, on March 18, released an extended national emergency proclamation to include an hours-of-service regulatory exemption to commercial truck drivers delivering emergency relief.
This is done in regard to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, thereby adding fuel and raw materials required to produce critical supplies to the list of freight included under the order.
The country’s truckers have been on the front lines of this push and are vital to America’s distribution network.
The extended declaration of the FMCSA allows for regulatory support for a commercial vehicle providing medical services to support emergency response efforts aimed at meeting urgent needs for the following:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, and treatment
- Supplies as well as equipment needed for the protection, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 communal transmissions like those of masks, gloves, disinfectants, soap and hand sanitizers
- Paper products as well as other foodstuffs for restocking distribution centers or stores in emergency
- Supplies, equipment as well as persons required for temporary emergency accommodation, quarantine, and management
- Individuals licensed for medical, isolation purposes by federal, state or local authorities;
- Individuals needed to provide further emergency medical services
- Some precursor materials–such as paper, plastic, or alcohol–needed for essential items
The declaration states that’ primary assistance implies transport as well as other relief services rendered by a fleet carrier or its driver for the immediate restoration of critical services (such as medical care) or vital products (such as fuel and food) relevant to COVID-19 emergency during outbreaks.’
How do I Log COVID-19 Relief Loads?
Based on the most recent FMCSA’s FAQ on Emergency Declarations, “Although the hours-of-service law doesn’t apply when working under an emergency declaration given under 49 CFR 390.23, you don’t have to keep a duty status record (log).
However, it would be required that you clarify the operation in the log “remarks” segment for clarification purposes.
The ELD requirement rules” anticipate that only specific drivers would be exempted, either indefinitely or in certain situations, “and have an exempt logging category.
The fleets should adjust the driver status to an exempt driver log-in account during the delivery of emergency relief.
It is recommended that affected commercial truck drivers add a note to their logs that relate to the emergency declaration and explain the direct assistance operation they are currently involved with.
However, that does not suggest to use exemption from the Adverse Driving Conditions for this reason.
What Isn’t Covered by The Coronavirus HOS Exception
The extended declaration clearly states that daily commercial deliveries do not include direct assistance.
Fleets carrier can’t add a nominal quantity of emergency relief eligible to a mixed load just to get the advantage of the emergency declaration.
As stated in the original declaration issued for the first time on March 14, this extended emergency declaration specifically states that after a driver has finished his or her delivery, the driver will receive at least 10 hours off duty when carrying property and 8 hours when carrying passengers.
The Emergency Declaration further specifies that this does not exclude motor carriers or passengers from the provisions of controlled substances, drug use, and testing. Commercial driver’s license provisions, financial responsibility (insurance) requirements, hazardous material regulations, proper height, and weight requirements or any other aspect of the regulations not expressly excluded.
However, several States have provided limits on temporary weight.
As many county and state authorities start closing government offices. Truck drivers may also have problems accessing drug and alcohol testing site, some fleets and drivers have concerns about how to go about expiring commercial driver’s licenses or medical cards, or random drug screening requirements.
During this time, fleets and drivers would have to consult with their respective state authorities about waiting periods for license renewals. However, most have updates on their websites.
A more difficult problem is drug testing and medical cards. The FMCSA needs to move into where driver-related issues are concerned and provide clear, concise guidelines.
The FMCSA declaration resolution is the first federal relief provided by the government and reflects President Trump’s issuance of a national emergency declaration in response to the virus.
Some States That Take Actions for Additional Regulatory Exemptions
In an attempt to help emergency relief efforts concerning coronavirus outbreak, Illinois is authorizing 88,000 pounds (or an extra 10 percent higher than permissible loads on fewer axles) for emergency relief assistance vehicles.
The State of emergency refers to loads not beyond 14 feet in width and 100 feet in length, and movements are allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until April 12.
Truck drivers have to ensure they bring a copy of the IDOT Declaration, the Presidential Declaration, and a lading bill.
There is no charge involved with the permit, and trucking companies must check Obstructions and Restrictions and follow all posts of structure and any limits on size or weight.
The State excludes seasonal weight limits motor carriers and drivers who provide direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to COVID-19 outbreaks.
On March 15, in a proactive attempt to avoid, contain, reduce and address the impacts of the COVID-19 virus, Missouri declared an allowance for heavier than usual truckloads of equipment and supplies to operate on Missouri highways.
The waiver enables private as well as for-hire commercial motor carriers to bear up to 10 percent more than their permitted weight on Missouri highways and will remain in place until April 30.
Hours of service regulations have also been suspended in Ohio as a result of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 intervention for commercial motor carriers delivering intrastate transport of food and medical supplies.
Unless instructed otherwise, drivers must hold a printed or electronic copy of this notice in each vehicle, which is affected by this regulatory relief grant.
Such an administrative exemption does not extend to trucks that do not have a copy of such notice.
The State suspended three sets of laws, subject to federal regulations and DMV safety restrictions. The following are the three sets of rules suspended.
- International Registration Plan (IRP) for vehicles licensed under the Transportation Code, Sections 502.091, and 43 Tex. Administrator. Law § 217.56, given that the truck is licensed in any of the 48 contiguous states of the United States.
- The permitting requirements of Oversize and overweight under the Transportation Code, Chapters 621 through 623, and also Title 43, Chapter 219 of the Texas Administrative Code, for all vehicles and loads divisible as well as non-divisible
- 72-hour and 144-hour temporary identification permits under the Transportation Law § 502.094 and 43 Tex. Administrator. Code § 217.40(b)(3), provided the vehicle is licensed in one of the U.S states.
Coronavirus Exemption Not applicable in Canada
Despite the United States ‘ temporary suspension of hours-of-service (HoS) rules for commercial truck drivers carrying Covid-19 relief products, Canada has so far not followed suit yet.
Every carrier operating in Canada must continue to comply, at least for the moment, with the Canadian HoS regulations.
However, Transport Canada is collaborating with industry to be able to quickly exempt federal hours-of-service regulations if that is a required step.
The world has adopted extraordinary measures to avoid Coronavirus (Covid-19) spreading, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as the U.S. President Donald Trump recently announced that any un-essential traveling between the two sides would also not be allowed. Still, the restriction would not affect trade and commerce.
Nevertheless, some jurisdictions already have their intervention laws in effect.
For example, in British Columbia (B.C.)., the jurisdiction has laws that exempt HoS restrictions for commercial vehicles transporting passengers or supplies for humanitarian relief purposes in a situation such as a drought, pestilence, earthquake, flood, fire, famine, or disease outbreak like Covid-19.
The ministry, as well as its maintenance contractors, continue taking steps to ensure that the regional transport network stays open and safe, said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure of B.C., so that food, emergency supplies, as well as other items can be placed on the marketplace.
Fortunately, the declaration makes precise arrangements for drivers who wish to stop, saying,” [If] the driver informs the fleet managers that they need immediate rest.
Americans for Tax Reform recently helped lead a progressive coalition of free-market campaigns continuing to call on FMCSA to help alleviate the rules placed on commercial vehicle drivers for hours of service.
Such regulations enforce a top-down, one-size-fits-all framework to regulation in which Washington regulators dictate when drivers have to take a break from driving, instead of depending on qualified drivers to decide for themselves.
ATR welcomes this move by the Trump administration to offer regulatory relief in response to the Coronavirus for commercial vehicle drivers carrying emergency medical care.
Such intervention would make vital goods and services more available to the general public in a crucial period of need.
However, the relief provided by this declaration is not available for any commercial motor carriers as well as vehicle drivers presently subject to an out-of-service order until after they have fulfilled the necessary requirements for its rescission, and FMCSA has also rescinded the directive.