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Trucking wants more clarity on emergency HOS waiver

Excluding mixed loads of essential and nonessential supplies in the exemption worries carriers. Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

A rare emergency waiver from trucking hours-of-service (HOS) regulations provides welcome relief to an industry responding to supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus — while simultaneously leaving carriers confused over what the waiver actually covers.

The declaration, issued late Friday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), details several types of freight considered to be “direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts” related to COVID-19 and therefore exempt — at least until April 12, but potentially longer — from current HOS work limits.

Those include medical supplies and equipment; masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants; and food for emergency restocking of stores.

But much of the confusion centers around what is not considered direct assistance — are certain types of perishables excluded? In addition, according to FMCSA, the waiver doesn’t include “routine commercial deliveries,” but it does not specifically define “routine.” The waiver also does not include loads that mix essential and non-essential supplies and equipment.

The lack of clarity has made some carriers hesitant to advise their drivers on what they can and cannot haul in furtherance of the emergency response. “We’re at a loss in terms of interpreting what Friday’s announcement meant,” Cory Manzi, vice president of brokerage operations for John Christner Trucking, told FreightWaves.

Manzi said that while water is considered by many to be an “emergency” supply for a grocery store, “you can go into a lot of stores right now and see no meat, or dairy products wiped off the shelves as well — so are those considered emergency supplies?”

As a result, he said, “we’re not changing any of our policies until we get more clarity on what our options are. The last thing we want is to open ourselves up to unnecessary risk due to any misinterpretation or a lack of detailed information.”

An FMCSA official told FreightWaves that the agency is considering the issue.

Brandon Wiseman, an attorney with the law firm Scopelitis, agrees that more clarity is warranted in the emergency order. Wiseman said his clients are seeking more clarity on what defines a “routine commercial delivery” made in direct connection with the emergency relief efforts.

“A lot of the questions we’re getting are, how do we as a carrier know specifically that our deliveries are being made in support of the emergency relief effort, or whether they’re just a routine commercial delivery?” Wiseman said. “Unfortunately, we don’t yet have an answer from the FMCSA on that.”

If and when that occurs, “our advice to carriers is, to the extent you’re able, document what’s on your truck to make sure it falls into one of the six categories listed in the emergency order. Also, keep track of anything you can point to that supports your position that your deliveries are in furtherance of the emergency relief efforts — even if it’s just showing that the demand has gone up for the products that you’re delivering. Anything that you have in that regard will be helpful down the line.”

Wiseman said the question of “mixed loads” is another gray area. “If I’m a carrier that has a bunch of masks and test kits going to a hospital but I also have ‘normal’ deliveries that I routinely make to the hospital on my trailer, does that mean my driver’s not exempt? The declaration suggests that such a delivery would not be. But is that what FMCSA intended?”


  1. Caleb

    They pull this shit all the time! Throw out some vague rule with no clarification then CA double the amount of state owned drones to harass you at the scales and treat you like a criminal! FMCSA is completely incompetent! Then the say if you deliver a load you have to take a ten after delivery. Well that’s worse than before because you won’t be able to reload until the following day. So if you go over an hour or two to get a load somewhere you burn an entire day anyway on a ten. These jack holes have clearly never driven or dispatched a truck and have no idea how a day in trucking is structured. Non-sense!

  2. Tom Yager

    Speaking from experience, this type of emergency declaration is not new or unique at all. They have been issued many times as a result of hurricanes, floods, etc. The restocking of grocery stores is a main objective on this one, so no one is going to question items that are typically found in grocery stores such as bottled water. Look at the extremes: Baby food? – YES; auto tires? – NO. Another objective involves medical supplies. Seems obvious enough doesn’t it? One comment here is incorrect– the driver does not have to maintain a log/ELD record, but it is recommended. And no, any type of “mixed load” is not allowed because that has been abused in the past. Also, keep in mind that this is much more than just an HOS exemption– get out your FMCSA rulebook and see what’s included in Parts 390-399 (subject to terms stated in the Declaration).

    1. Rick Gobbell

      Come on Tom. Just because it has been abused in the past has nothing to do with the seriousness of the National Emergency this Covert-19 Pandemic threatens our country. For a short time quit serving the government and serve your country for a change, ooh that is a novel idea, be a public servant for a month in your 49 year carrier as a government servant.

  3. James Stephens

    The issued waiver states that all record of duty statuses must be kept and monitored so even if you run beyond the 11/14/70 you still have to track how long you did run. You also still have duty to not run ill or fatigued. Other than maybe ignoring the 70 hour / 8 day rule and running 11/14 every day, I don’t see how you can make an argument that driving very much over on your daily hours does not get into driving fatigued. And the waiver will not cover you during litigation if a car runs into you.

    1. Marc Riffle

      Humans don’t get tired at the same time every day or actually need 10 hours off consecutive some only need 3 to 5 hours or some 8 hours every human is not the same. But you see the government wants to control all of us. Like robots

  4. Bigdee

    Again people tha t have no clue making rules that makes no since a pony show why not just say shut the elds down until further notice I’m quite scared to my job because I might have to stay some where I’m not comfortable and get high jacked if their is nothing on the shelves people are going to get desperate and start doing desperate things

  5. Truckeronroad

    What a joke!!! Very simple close all scales ,run no log for everyone..back to normal in a week..done..also remove all fines for early delivery..I could have delivered 1 day early but I was told by the broker walmart will fine me$500.00.for early delivery…so no rush

    1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO

      Quote :
      ” Very simple close all scales ,run no log for everyone..back to normal in a week..done..also remove all fines for early delivery.”

      Can’t do that due to abuse and leading to chaos which would be equivalent to anarchy . Extremely unsafe . Drivers will be pushed beyond reason , and who knows in what condition some trucks will be in and at what speed they’ll run .

      This industry has attracted an abundance of regulations due to abuse and even though these regulations are in place , abuse continues . Furthermore , the FMCSA has once again proven to the general population that they are a complete joke !

      I will use a very simple example . No matter the emergency on this planet , safety is number 1 . If there’s a stop sign on your route , stop at the stop sign ! If you give people an inch they will take a mile , especially in this industry !

      Most in this industry and in the general population are not mature enough to be given an option to run a stop sign if nobody is around . They’ll do it even if there’s people/traffic around .

      One must be extremely vigilant , especially when bending the rules ! The FMCSA are negligent and their poor communication allowing a HOS waiver confirms this as well , as well as allowing a HOS waiver which neglects their own safety rants for implementing such rules !

      In my humble opinion …….

    2. Charles W Blankenship

      Amazing how truckers are no good pieces of crap when all is well,, so restrict us ,fine us,and tie are hands so we cant make a decent paycheck, O but when theres a crisis let us finally do our jobs…… Screw your toilet paper needs i hope this country shuts down . dont come crying to this industry about how you finally need us now !!! Boo hoo ,,government wanted to restrict us ,F… Them let them get there own toilet paper… Business as usual ,they wanted elogs, stick to em!! …..just saying.

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.