Federal regulators issued a fourth extension of a rare 50-state exemption of hours-of-service (HOS) rules due to ongoing health risks caused by COVID-19.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced late Friday it was extending the HOS waiver — which was set to expire Feb. 28 — through May 31.
The national exemption to the HOS rules for truckers and carriers hauling COVID-19 relief was first issued on March 12, 2020, in response to the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump. It was set to expire a month later, but the rapidly spreading pandemic has warranted several extensions and expansions.
Prior to Friday, the most recent extension issued on Dec. 1 was expanded to include carriers transporting COVID-19 vaccines.
“This extension of the expanded modified emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the [safety regulations] for motor carriers and drivers,” the latest order states.
The order applies to commercial motor vehicle operations that provide direct assistance supporting relief efforts related to the pandemic. It covers parts 390 to 399 of the federal motor carrier regulations for the 50 states and District of Columbia. In addition to HOS, the regulations also apply to inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles, employee safety and parking rules, among others. Details on the regulations covered by the waiver can be viewed here.
The waiver is limited to hauling:
1. Livestock and livestock feed.
2. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
3. Vaccines, constituent products and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines related to the prevention of COVID-19.
4. 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.
5. Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
“Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration,” the waiver states.
Previous extensions listed a number of situations in which the waiver did not apply, including drivers not complying with speed limits and driving while fatigued.
The most recent extension added a restriction to those operating a vehicle “in a condition likely to cause an accident or breakdown of the vehicle and operating a vehicle declared and marked out of service until all repairs required by the out-of-service notice have been satisfactorily completed.”