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FMCSA Relaxes HOS Rules in Response to COVID-19

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last Friday evening that truck drivers who are moving goods "in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks" will temporarily not have to follow the hours-of-service laws, which mandate how many hours a truck driver may work.  

This is the first time since 1938, when the rule was developed, that it's been suspended on a national level. It's common for states and local governments to lift the rule amid natural disasters, when consumers "panic buy" household goods and hospitals need medical supplies.  

"Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response," says America Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally. "This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic."

Around 70% of the nation's goods by weight is moved by a truck - so ensuring that they can get to your local grocery store or hospital ramps up in times of crisis. "Everything from the fuel you put in your vehicle to consumables in your home all get put in play because of a truck driver," Tampa-based truck driver Dennis Felix-Shannon told Business Insider.  

In its current edition, HOS requires truck drivers to drive only 11 hours within a 14-hour work period. They must then log 10 hours of "off-duty" time.  

According to the FMCSA's Friday evening emergency declaration, here are the types of loads that are exempt from HOS laws:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment 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 for emergency restocking of stores

  • Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19

  • Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes

  • Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response

Source: FMCSA, Business Insider

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