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FMCSA Expands Response to COVID-19

Note: This article was originally posted to TopMark Funding in March 2020. Information may be outdated.

Recently the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced for the first time in history national suspension of certain Hours of Service regulations. This was in response to the coronavirus State of Emergency. This Wednesday on March 18th, the FMCSA has expanded the suspensions further.

“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food, and household goods to Americans in need. The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain. We will continue to support them and use our authority to protect the health and safety of the American people,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said.

The decision comes on the heels of President Trump invoking the Defense Production Act to help fight coronavirus, where more raw materials are expected to be needed to produce supplies and equipment such as hand sanitizer and facemasks.

Changes to the Hours-of-Service

As of now, the suspension of HOS regulations apply to the following things being hauled. The newest exclusions to the regulations are underlined:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to COVID-19 (testing, diagnosis, and treatment).
  • Supplies and equipment for healthcare workers combating COVID-19 infections (gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.).
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Paper products for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Other groceries for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Equipment, supplies, and personnel for temporary housing and quarantine facilities.
  • Fuel (gasoline and diesel).
  • People designated by authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
  • Personnel to provide emergency services.
  • Immediate precursor raw materials that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items.

The FMCSA emphasizes that the suspension is not for standard commercial deliveries. A truckload that happens to carry some paper towels alongside video game consoles does not get the privilege of ignoring HOS regulations.

Once a driver has completed a delivery where he or she exceeded the driving limits of HOS that would otherwise apply, they must take a break. The break is ten consecutive hours off-duty if transporting property and an eight-hour break if transporting passengers. One cannot simply haul up and drive off again. The last thing the trucking industry needs is crashed big rigs obstructing highways and congesting deliveries.

You can read the declaration in full here.

Conclusion

While delivering supplies, equipment, and materials to help people fight coronavirus, safety is an even higher priority than before. This does not just apply to avoiding coronavirus, but driving as a whole.

Just because you can drive beyond Hours of Service rules does not mean you should drive when exhausted. If you feel yourself dozing off, find a parking spot, pull over, and rest. Driving while tired is comparable to driving drunk.

Getting into an accident is not only harmful for you. The people who need the supplies you are delivering are depending on you to get to your destination safely.

When hauling anything, whether under the HOS suspension or not, remember not to touch the diesel pump without wearing gloves.

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