Report by Rick Schweitzer, NEFI Regulatory Counsel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On February 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Though the emergency declaration does not currently provide HOS relief for the delivery of fuel and related products, NEFI has approached FMCSA on expanding the scope of available relief, and we will keep you updated on the situation as it progresses.
FMCSA's declaration provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations offering direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- 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.
Motor carriers and drivers providing such relief are exempt from the provisions of 49 CFR Parts 390-399, but would still be subject to controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver's license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), and applicable vehicle size and weight requirements.
According to the declaration, "direct assistance" means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as food, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the emergency.
Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, or transportation of mixed loads that include essential supplies, equipment and persons, along with supplies, equipment and persons that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks.
The exemption is in effect immediately and will remain in effect until the emergency has ceased or 11:59 p.m. on April 12, 2020, whichever is earlier.
The exemption does not apply to deliveries of fuel or related products, however, so NEFI has approached the FMCSA to expand the scope of the exemption to include these products. NEFI also asked the agency how it will ensure continued deliveries of fuel and related products if the government imposes travel restrictions on a local or broader basis. Again, we will keep our members and industry colleagues updated as the situation progresses.