By Houston Hum

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  Shortly thereafter, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“Administration”) issued Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 which for the first time ever granted nationwide exemptions to certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMSCRs”).  The exemptions are intended to provide the “necessary relief from the FMCSRs for motor carriers and drivers engaged in the transport of essential supplies, equipment and persons” to combat the spread of the coronavirus.  Qualifying drivers/motor carriers are granted “emergency relief” from the requirements of Parts 390-399 of the FMCSRs, subject to the conditions specified within the Emergency Declaration.  The exemptions most notably include the FMCSRs pertaining to hours of service (Part 395) and parts and accessories needed for safe operation (Part 393).  FMCSRs pertaining to licensing, drugs and alcohol testing, transport of hazardous materials, size and weight restrictions, and registration requirements still apply. 

The exemptions apply only to motor carriers and drivers providing “direct assistance in support of relief efforts relating to the COVID-19 outbreak.”  The Emergency Declaration defines “direct assistance” as “transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its drivers 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.”  Those delivering products such as soap, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, disinfectants, and other products necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 are subject to the exemptions, as are those delivering medical personnel or persons involved in managing temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities relating to COVID-19.  However, the exemptions do not apply to those delivering mixed loads of direct assistance and non-direct assistance supplies/personnel.  Once direct assistance supplies/personnel are delivered, the exemptions continue to apply if the driver returns “empty” to the motor carrier’s terminal or to her/his normal work reporting location.

If a driver informs the motor carrier that she/he needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location.  Once the driver has returned to the terminal or other location, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty, if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.

The Emergency Declaration will remain in effect until the end of the declared national emergency or 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 12, 2020, whichever occurs first.  The Administration may extend the Emergency Declaration or broaden its scope to include exemptions from other FMCSRs.  According to FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen, the “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.”  In the coming weeks, we expect more guidance from the FMCSA regarding this Emergency Declaration, and we at Reminger will provide updates as more information becomes available.

If you have any question regarding Trucking and Commercial Transportation Liability, please call one of our Trucking and Commercial Transportation Liability Practice Group members. 

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.

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