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Time to lift emergency hours-of-service waiver?

FMCSA monitoring status as livestock haulers urge keeping emergency exemption in place until at least end of August

HOS emergency waiver could be past its time. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Livestock haulers want federal regulators to keep in place the 16-month-long emergency hours-of-service waiver for truck drivers and carriers until at least the end of August despite an economy that has largely reopened for business.

The latest extension, issued on May 26, is set to expire at the end of August. However, FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi noted in the extension that her agency intended to review the status of the order as of July 1 to decide whether to modify or lift it sooner “if conditions warrant.”

A spokesman for FMCSA told FreightWaves on Thursday that the agency was continuing to closely monitor the situation. “At this time, however, there was no change to report on the status of the emergency declaration,” he said.

Trucking outbound tender volume, an indicator of economic activity, have held strong since August 2020.
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That is good news for livestock haulers, whose commodity has been at the top of the list of cargo eligible to be hauled under the waiver since it was added to the exemption in June 2020.

“We’re continuing to move livestock so that we can get meat and other proteins on the store shelves in what’s still considered a global pandemic,” Allison Rivera, executive director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, told FreightWaves.

“Our small-business truckers have shown over more than a year that they’ve been able to use it to avoid food shortages while maintaining a high level of safety on the road. We want to make sure that when there are disruptions in the supply chain our drivers have the ability to pivot. The emergency order gives us that flexibility.”

Confusion and violations

But depending on the commodity being hauled and the type of hauler — employee driver versus owner-operator, for example — the exemption could be causing more confusion than it’s worth.

“What we’ve heard from some of our members is that sometimes brokers, shippers and receivers are telling drivers that what they’re hauling for them is covered under the exemption,” said Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “But drivers are getting ticketed, because the type of product technically isn’t considered to be ‘emergency’ under the waiver. I tell drivers to use their common sense in these situations. The problem is the order leaves some room for interpretation.”

David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, said most of his members probably were not using the exemption in the first place. “They didn’t need to, because during the height of the pandemic there were no cars on the road and congestion was low. They were operating under business-as-usual conditions.”

Safety factor

The first-of-its-kind, 50-state exemption was rolled out in March 2020 in response to a national emergency brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. The waiver gives drivers more time to make deliveries without violating federal work-hour requirements. It has been modified, expanded and extended several times as the types of products that shippers and consumers needed to flow freely through the supply chain evolved from food and fuel to face masks and vaccines.

But truck safety advocates have been cautioning since as early as December 2020 that safety should be a priority in expanding and extending the waiver. The Truck Safety Coalition pointed out that with rising vaccination rates, “we are optimistic that additional exemptions may be unnecessary,” according to Zach Cahalan, the group’s executive director.

“The Truck Safety Coalition understands we’re living in a unique time and narrowly tailored hours-of-service emergency exceptions, as advised by public health officials, may be appropriate in response to the ongoing public health emergency,” Cahalan told FreightWaves. “Should emergency exemptions continue to be needed at this time, we’d encourage they contain safeguards to protect truck drivers as well as all road users.”

Cahalan pointed out that the National Transportation Safety Board routinely cites fatigue as a major factor in commercial motor vehicle crashes, “and this fact should factor heavily in all exemption considerations.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Thorell Smith

    Not using the exemption. Too many drivers ticketed under it’s unclear wording. Rather just run legal and be late. Otherwise best 18 months of our existence. Taking extra time to fix things proactively, and enjoying a great csa score. Haul on!

  2. Jeffrey Roberts

    Let us not forget that during this time of exemption the accident rate has gone down, maybe their’s something to this cookie cutter approach that we are all different and have different bodies and sleeping habits? Not that anyone cares about a truckers perspective.

  3. Richard Davis

    The FMCSA is not doing anything for safety. It’s all about money. Why is it ” unsafe ” for livestock haulers to use an ELD and not for other truck drivers using the same roads? The only thing I can see, is the FMCSA think livestock haulers need that .15 increments that paper logs afford truck drivers for safety. ELD’s are in exact time, no leeway, every minute counts. That puts pressure and stress on drivers. Why does the Government think livestock haulers need to stretch the truth or lie to do there job?

    1. Tcs53

      Think about it for a minute. Bull haulers are just an extension of agriculture. Farmers get exemptions for everything. Farmers are out there hauling freight, some of which don’t even have a CDL.

  4. Barney VALENZUELA

    I’ve never seen so much blatant thievery and corruption as there is now in the transportation industry. They should be ashamed but they’re not. Fricken thugs and thieves playing it off smooth. Zero accountability…feeding off uneducated truckers.

  5. Glad I quit trucking

    So now going over hos is safe when company money is at stake or when the American people need something?? Make up your mind fmcsa. Hey trucker, your wife is nailing the neighbor, you’re gonna die at 60, your kids hardly know you, and your life sucks but yeah, break the rules you otherwise get heavy fines for to please the rich!!! As a matter of fact perhaps you fools will make the economy boom by doing your job for free from now on, might as well since after taxes, truckstop price gouging, and pay for parking prices you’re only pocketing 4 to 5 hundred a week!!! No wonder math isn’t required to gain a cdl, God forbid you actually know how screwed over you all are. And sit down Mr. Owner op, your days are numbered til bankruptcy, especially since the stricter regulations showed up in 2019…Insurance hikes, dot foaming at the mouth to make you a B rated driver, fines, maintenance, tires (since the roads here are fantastic), and rising fuel costs. Settlement minus fuel minus food minus casino stops minus tires minus PM’S minus fines minus ifta minus overweight permits minus quarterly inspections, minus breakdowns, minus apu issues, minus lumpers, minus lights minus pigtails/gladhands minus seals minus parking…There’s a good formula to use to sadly see how pathetic your gross pay is. Let’s not forget the brokers and factoring/processors or elds…Oops forgot maintaining the LLC and other fees. By all means though, keep catering to the filthy rich and their bending of their own rules when it’s convenient for them…..Thanks for all you do, much respect but you’re all indoctrinated slaves. Wake up!!

  6. I noticed

    Rental truck and rental trailer with black magic marker writing on the side of the sleeper driving as their own company I noticed they are somolians or some jihadists from Africa and say on the CB radio the broker has me deliver to a warehouse instead of the reciever and ship it off to Africa then let insurance pay for not delivering the load

    1. Done trucking

      They are not the only ones doing this. There is a global food shortage. Chinas empty container scheme was used to bring in major food stocks because the rest of the world knows what’s going on while our media stays silent. Research it for yourself. What you heard on the CB was another scheme to do it as much as possible before getting caught. Everyone but us are preparing for what’s coming at all cost.

Comments are closed.

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.