UPDATED, March 18, 2020 — In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on March 13, 2020 issued a nationwide emergency declaration to assist in the expeditious movement of people, equipment and supplies essential to the combat of the disease. An expanded emergency declaration was issued by the agency on March 18, 2020.

This is the first time FMCSA has issued an emergency declaration that is nationwide in scope. The declaration provides relief to motor carriers and drivers from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations when those carriers and drivers are providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. This includes exemption from hours of service (HOS) regulations while providing direct assistance.

Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its drivers related to the immediate restoration of essential services, including medical care and essential supplies of food during a COVID-19 outbreak.

For example, direct assistance covers the transportation of:

  • 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, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
  • Immediate precursor raw materials – such as paper, plastic or alcohol – that are required and to be used for the manufacture of the items listed in the three bullets above.
  • Fuel.
  • Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine and isolation 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.

On the other hand, direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries or mixed loads which have a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration .

Direct assistance ends when the driver or commercial motor vehicle are dispatched for non-emergency purposes or to another location to begin non-emergency operations. Once direct assistance is over, the motor carrier and driver are again subject to 49 CFR, Parts 390-399, except that a driver who had been providing direct assistance may return empty to the carrier terminal or normal work reporting location. At that time, the driver must be relieved of all duties and receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, eight hours if transporting people.

The FMCSA emergency declaration does not grant relief from controlled substances and alcohol testing requirements, from financial responsibility (insurance) requirements, hazardous materials regulations or commercial motor vehicle size and weight limits. Motor carriers or drivers currently under an out-of-service order are not eligible for this emergency relief until that out-of-service order has been removed.

The FMCSA emergency declaration will remain in effect until the COVID-19 national emergency is determined to be over or until 11:59 PM (Eastern time) on April 12, 2020, whichever comes first.

More information, including further updates, are on the FMCSA’s Emergency Declarations, Waivers, Exemptions and Permits website.

This post was updated to include information about the Extended Emergency Declaration.

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