At this time of extreme uncertainty, not only for the United States but for the entire world, it is easy to feel as though everything is out of control and that positive experiences have all but evaporated. But for trucking, this idea could not be further from the truth. Many truckload carriers are currently seeing impressive rates and high demand. And our industry continues to shine in the media as everyday citizens become increasingly aware of the important role trucking plays in their lives.
TCA has seen our positive experiences with the federal government grow exponentially in the last few weeks. Under normal circumstances, the typical pace of government can be described as glacial at best. But in the days that have followed the emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus outbreak, our partners in the federal government have leaped into action. Most notably, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its operating administrations, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), have gone above and beyond to solicit input from industry and quickly respond to the concerns raised by TCA and our members.
At the beginning of the crisis, FMCSA swiftly issued an emergency declaration allowing professional truck drivers hauling emergency relief loads to be exempt from the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. After hearing concerns from industry that the declaration was not clear enough on the types of items that qualify as emergency relief and the specifics of the HOS exemption, FMCSA issued two FAQ documents, one on March 19 and another on March 25, to answer these important questions. The FAQs were a direct result of FMCSA’s conversations with TCA, our industry partners, and our member companies.
Other key actions by FMCSA include extension of expiring commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), commercial learner’s permits (CLPs), and medical certifications until June 30 and guidance on how carriers should proceed with drug and alcohol testing in the face of disruptions caused by coronavirus. Additionally, FMCSA has issued a waiver to postpone for three months the requirement for a CLP holder to be accompanied by a CDL holder in the front seat of the vehicle while the CLP holder is driving. It also waives limits on states to give skills tests to nondomiciled residents.
It is important to keep in mind that this has all happened just in the last two weeks. We know FMCSA is still working on several pending issues and we expect to see more from them soon. These include further guidance on pre-employment drug testing, as well as direction for drivers with expiring hazardous materials endorsements on their CDLs, which is currently being discussed between DOT and the Transportation Security Administration.
The incredible amount of output that DOT and FMCSA have produced up to this point deserves significant commendation. We thank Secretary Elaine Chao and Acting Administrator Jim Mullen for their tireless attention to the needs of the industry delivering critical relief to our country.