If you have been following the news regarding the coronavirus pandemic, you may remember two things:
- The hours-of-service exemption was extended until the end of 2020.
- Other exemptions, such as the CDL renewal, CPL renewal, and medical certification renewal, were provided.
On September 18th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) combined the two and made it so that the exemption for needing to renew specific paperwork has been extended until the end of the year.
The declaration can be found on the FMCSA’s website.
The original exemption was intended to last until September 30th or the end of the pandemic, whichever came first, but the FMCSA decided that an extension was necessary. Unlike the hours-of-service exemption, this applies to a wider range of truckers, including those that are hauling things not immediately related to the pandemic, such as television sets. This is shown under the “Public Interest” section on page 3 of the Declaration, where truckers perform the “critical role in delivering necessary property and passengers, including, but not limited to, shipments of essential supplies to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
Beyond fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the exemption is in place because of limits placed as a direct result of the pandemic: many facilities testing for the certifications needed are temporarily shut down.
As with all exemptions, there are rules and caveats in place to make sure the exemption is not construed as a free ticket to avoid regulations. For starters, the exemption only applies to people who have a CDL that expired during the exemption period. Having a CDL that expired in 2017 does not clear you of driving again without renewal. Additionally, the exemption does not apply to drivers who had their licenses suspended or withdrawn. Also, certain forms of cargo are exempt, such as double/triple trailers and hazardous materials.
There are ten points of “Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver”, and it would be wise to read up on them, especially point ten, that says the FMCSA can revoke the waiver privileges for those who abuse them.
At this point, it is fair to say that the trucking industry has acclimated to COVID-19. While our estimates for the pandemic ending were off, the economic effects of the pandemic are getting better. Freight rates are climbing, jobs in the industry are rising, and sales for equipment keep breaking new records.
There is an argument to be made that the regulation exemptions are no longer needed, but as the demand for sipped goods rises, the country can use all the trucks it can (reasonably) get on the road. We approve.