The FMCSA has been extending its state of emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of hours-of-service for many, many months now. Their most recent extension was published at the start of this month, extending it to the end of February 2021. The previous extension before this one was set to last until the end of the year, so why is the FMCSA preemptively extending it another two months?
The answer to the question above is because the FMCSA wanted to revise what fits under the hours-of-service exemption, and decided to kill two birds with one stone by extending it now instead of some time later in the month.
As with the previous exemption, four types of hauling still apply:
- Livestock and livestock feed.
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
- 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.
- Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
But now there is a fifth one added to the list:
- Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19.
Presumably the FMCSA hopes that by providing this clarity, it can help prevent any confusion as to whether or not vaccines would have otherwise fallen under the second listed cargo type.
As with every state of emergency extension regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the second half of the document lists common sense restrictions. Delivering COVID-19 vaccines does not give you permission to break the speed limit or text while driving, for examples.
It is more likely than any time before that this extension will be the last. If vaccinated people are incapable of spreading the virus, vaccinating enough people will be enough to mostly stop the virus in its tracks. Whether or not this extension is necessary will depend on how quickly the nation can distribute what vaccines it needs to distribute.
Until that time comes, remember to wear a mask inside public areas, to practice social distancing, and to use gloves when handling the diesel pump!