A relatively small addition to the pandemic-related hours of service waiver has been added by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 18 days before the exemption is set to expire.
The change announced Friday by the FMCSA adds the transport of propane, natural gas and heating oil to the list of goods that can be transported without concern for the HOS regulation. That general exemption to the HOS of the regulation that is found in section 49 CFR § 395.3 of the federal code of regulations was announced March 13, 2020. It has been extended numerous times.
Before month’s end, the federal exemption would need to be extended again or the two-plus-year waiver from the HOS rule would disappear. While there is no indication that the general exemption from 2020 will be extended, the addition of three types of products getting an exemption would seem to signal that an extension of the exemption is in the offing.
The American Trucking Associations published a list of the products exempted under the pandemic-fueled relief. The three energy products – which ironically were added just as their peak winter usage season is ending – were listed along with gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and ethyl alcohol, which already were exempt.
The other areas exempted are:
* Livestock and livestock feed.
* Medical supplies connected to COVID-19 testing and treatment of procedures.
* Vaccines and supplies related to COVID-19 vaccination.
* Products related to community safety and sanitation for COVID-19, such as masks or gloves.
* Food and paper products to restock distribution centers or stores.
* An exemption for a broad category the ATA describes as “supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-10 pandemic.” It cites as an example building materials for people who have been displaced as a result of COVID-19.
ATA noted that the exemption will stay in effect until May 31 “unless extended by FMCSA.”
Companies that are exceeding the HOS regulation under the protection of the waiver were required, starting last August, to report monthly when they were operating under the terms of the exemption.
Whether the HOS exemption has had any impact, as sweeping as it is, can be debated. As the HOS1.USA data series in SONAR seems to suggest, some of the peaks in hours of service per driver have been higher in the last two years.
Peaks before the rule in the data series tended to max out at 6.3 to 6.4 hours on the road out of the maximum of 11.
Since then, there have been spikes taking the HOS utilized above 6.4 and as high as 6.6. But other factors could be playing a role, such as higher rates encouraging drivers to rack up more hours and make more money.