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FMCSA cancels emergency hours of service waiver

Exemption in place since March 2020 lifted as truck capacity loosens

ATA, safety advocates pushed for ending hours of service exemption. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration quietly let lapse a national hours-of-service exemption in place for over two years, a move supported by both major trucking companies and truck safety advocates.

The exemption, first issued by FMCSA in March 2020 following the national emergency declared by President Trump in response to COVID-19, was extended and/or modified over 10 times. It gave truck drivers and carriers more flexibility to deliver shipments of livestock, medical supplies, vaccines, groceries and diesel fuel by waiving hours of service restrictions.

But the most recent extension, which was issued in September and expired on Saturday, has not been renewed.

“We evaluated the data coming back on who was using it, as well as the evaluation of the comments we received [on the last extension],” FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson told FreightWaves on Monday. “We also looked at where we are with COVID, and the guidance that has been coming out on that. All was behind the decision to let it expire.”

The change countered a decision on Friday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which renewed its determination that a public health emergency still exists.

But for FMCSA, Hutcheson said, “the tools we have [to provide regulatory relief] are limited to the authorities that we have, and based on the feedback we received we feel like we made the right call.”


FMCSA noted in its September extension that certain cargo being hauled under the exemption had been steadily declining. In addition, ending the exemption was supported by both the American Trucking Associations and the Truck Safety Coalition – two influential groups that rarely agree on issues that come before the agency.

“While ATA appreciated the emergency declaration relief throughout the early stages of the pandemic, most ATA members no longer feel continued relief is necessary,” the group stated in response to FMCSA’s request for comments on the most recent extension. “ATA members continue to voice concerns that continuing regulatory relief may be used to circumvent the hours-of-service regulations or foster abuse of the regulations.”

In asking FMCSA to deny another extension, the Truck Safety Coalition pointed to a 13% increase in deaths occurring from truck crashes between 2020 and 2021. “FMCSA must consider the deplorable state of roadway safety when considering continued regulatory relief, specifically, the unabated rise in truck crash fatalities,” the coalition stated.

Livestock and animal feed haulers, on the other hand, which have remained exempted from the hour of service rules throughout the national emergency, were some of the biggest supporters of continuing the exemption.

FreightWaves OTRI index, 3 months ending Oct. 14, 2022. Decreasing tender rejections is an indicator of loosening truck capacity.
To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

“Agricultural shippers have been experiencing significant rail service challenges and emergency truck freight has been indispensable to helping meet demand,” Michael Seyfert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association, told FMCSA.

“Even though truck transportation capacity is tight, agricultural shippers have been forced to find extra truck freight to help fill the void where rail is unavailable or unreliable. While the trucking industry is doing what it can to help with the rail service challenges, there is a limited amount of trucking capacity,” Seyfert added.

Data measuring truck capacity and spot prices does not match up with NGFA’s assessment of the market, however, as truckload tender rejections – a barometer for capacity – recently hit a new low.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

6 Comments

  1. Cecilia Zalewski

    Google paying a splendid earnings from domestic 6850USD a week, this is awesome a 12 months beyond i was laid-off in a totally horrible financial system. “w many thank you google every day for blessing the ones guidelines and presently it’s miles my responsibility to pay and percentage it with all and sundry ..
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  2. Dorothy Mellott

    ok you really know what we think of your trucker’s coalition,and American trucking association,there full of poop and have no clue on how hard they are making are jobs,speed limiters ,half hour break’s, what a bunch of Bull ticky,why don’t they get real with the drivers causing the problems,and leave the ones alone thats trying to follow all the bull crap they keep making the drivers put up with already,you want to make a different fine how about suspension if your speeding thru city’s, construction zones,in wrong lanes carrying overweight,or shut down carriers that have repeatedly had accidents,left and right want to really help start paying attention to what is really going on .

  3. Carlos_P

    TRUTH is; they have the DATA that shows carriers USING the Exemption had a LOWER CRASH RATE … what’s that tell you !! #Clownshow2022 #FMCSA 🇨🇳🤡🇨🇳🤡🇨🇳🤡

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.
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