HOS Suspended for COVID-19 Relief
For the first time ever, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a nationwide declaration exempting carriers transporting essential goods and personnel to assist with coronavirus relief from the Hours of Service (HOS) mandate.
While exceptions have been made in the past for areas impacted by severe weather events, there has never been an emergency exemption covering the entire United States.
The HOS temporary suspension comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s March 13 national emergency declaration in response to the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has already caused significant disruptions, quarantines, and death overseas, primarily in China and Italy. The exemption is scheduled to run through April 12, or when the emergency is over.
The suspension applies to Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which address hours of service, parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles.
Qualifying Goods for COVID-19 HOS Exemption
According to the FMCSA, drivers transporting the following items to support COVID-19 relief are exempt from HOS requirements:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
- Food for emergency restocking of stores.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services. (FMCSA, 2020)
All rules not pertaining to HOS and COVID-19, such as required commercial driver licenses, registration, and drug and alcohol polices remain in effect.
FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen stated, “Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and [Transportation] Secretary [Elaine] Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently.” Mullen said, “FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
Important Points for Carriers and the HOS Exemption
Moving forward, there are four important points that carriers should keep in mind:
Driver and community safety is priority.
Drivers should take breaks to avoid fatigue related accidents. The safety of drivers and other motorists is top priority.
Drivers are still accountable for accidents causing injury or death.
If an accident occurs resulting in injury or death, drivers may not use the emergency declaration as a defense. Carriers are still liable for accidents under these circumstances.
Don’t self-declare that your shipment is exempt from HOS regulations.
Carriers must perform due diligence to assure that shipments are in compliance with the emergency declaration. Conduct a team meeting to assess any potential disqualifiers, such as routine shipments, mixed shipments of qualifying and non-qualifying items, and qualifying items not related to the management of COVID-19 or emergency restocking of grocery stores. Additionally, once the shipment has been delivered, the driver must rest for 10 hours.
All other regulations must be followed.
Carriers are expected to maintain compliance with all other FMCSA rules.
Visit the FMCSA website for more information on its response to COVID-19 and how this affects you. Match Factors wishes you good health and safe travels. Continue to follow our blog for the latest company and industry news.