It came as no surprise when, on August 31, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended its waivers to continue to provide flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last year and a half, federal regulators have heeded calls from industry stakeholders to allow for the transport of goods to areas suffering greatly from the ongoing health crisis in an expedient manner. TCA has been very pleased with the agency’s willingness to act and listen to the regulated community to best serve the public during this unprecedented time.
In the latest iteration of the hours-of-service (HOS) Emergency Declaration, FMCSA added fuels and a new category of supplies meant to assist those who have been adversely affected by the pandemic to the list of items which qualify for regulatory relief. The full list now includes:
- Livestock and livestock feed;
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
- Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention 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, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
- Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol; and
- Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency).
FMCSA continues to exclude non-emergency transportation of qualifying commodities or routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added from the definition “direct assistance” needed to qualify for the exemption.
Additionally, FMCSA extended its waivers for commercial driver’s license and commercial learner’s permit holders, skills test examiners, and medical examiner’s certificates.
It is yet to be determined whether the agency will extend the waivers again. While the pandemic is clearly still having a profound impact on the country, FMCSA is requesting information from carriers about their use of the HOS waiver. FMCSA is currently unaware of how many trucks are utilizing this exemption on a daily basis, but under the latest waiver extension, carriers are to report within 5 days after the end of each month their reliance on the Declaration through their portal account.
The current waivers expire on Nov. 30, and the industry will likely have to wait until then to see how the Agency will proceed in light of the new information it has collected.