Federal regulators have extended an exemption from hours-of-service rules for drivers hauling pandemic-related freight, citing the need to provide capacity in the wake of a potential rise in COVID-19 infections.
“Although the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline in the U.S. following widespread introduction of vaccinations, persistent issues arising out of COVID-19 continue to affect the U.S., including impacts on supply chains and the need to ensure capacity to respond to variants and potential rises in infections,” according to an order released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Monday.
“Therefore, a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains.”
The HOS emergency waiver has been amended and extended several times since it was first issued in March 2020. The last extension was set to expire Tuesday. The extension issued Monday runs through Feb. 28.
Truck drivers granted relief must be providing “direct assistance” to aid the “immediate restoration of essential services (such as medical care) or essential supplies related to COVID-19 during the emergency.”
“Regulatory relief” from the HOS rules will be granted if the driver is transporting:
- Livestock and livestock feed.
- Medical supplies and equipment for COVID-19 testing.
- Vaccines and products related to vaccines.
- Personal protective equipment and other safety and sanitization products.
- Food and paper products for restocking stores.
- Fuel products.
- Building materials and other supplies to assist those displaced or otherwise affected by pandemic-related issues.
FMCSA emphasized once again that the definition of “direct assistance” terminates when a driver or commercial truck is used to move interstate cargo or provide services “that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce.”
Direct assistance does not include non emergency transportation of the listed commodities or routine deliveries. Mixing loads with a small quantity of the listed commodities also does not qualify for the exemption.
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