The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended for the eighth time the COVID-19 hours-of-service exception for pandemic loads through May 31, 2021, or until the national emergency is overturned. The COVID-19 relief exemption was to expire on February 28, 2021, but the extension was released late February 12.
Transportation Types Under the Exemption Extension
According to the FMCSA, drivers and motor carriers who aid support in the relief efforts of COVID-19 are covered in the emergency relief extension Parts 390 through Parts 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
In the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, it states, “direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services (such as medical care) or essential supplies related to COVID-19 during the emergency.”
The exemption is limited to the following transportation types:
- Livestock and livestock feed
- Medical supplies and equipment needed for diagnosis, testing, and treatment for COVID-19
- Vaccines, essential products, and supplies needed to administer vaccines related to COVID-19 prevention
- Safety, sanitation, and prevention supplies and equipment to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This can include gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants; and
- Food, paper products, other groceries for emergency restocking of stores and distribution centers
The exemption does not include routine commercial deliveries with mixed loads that do not benefit the COVID-19 emergency.
While some rules have been lifted, some regulations are still in place. Rules such as speed limits, driving while fatigued or impaired, texting and/or operating a handheld device while driving, and drug and alcohol regulations are still in place.
The FMSA first issued the Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 on March 13, 2020. This declaration held a national emergency to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since March 2020, the FMCSA has extended and modified the exemption to expand and remove sections related to supplies, equipment, and those covered in response to the emergency relief.
While we may have seen some improvement over the past months, COVID-19 is still here and still making an impact on our country and lives. As long as COVID-19 negatively impacts our Americans, our drivers will still be trucking to help support and bring goods where they are needed.