The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has responded to the rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant by extending and expanding its emergency declaration. The updated emergency declaration now runs through Nov. 30, 2021. The prior emergency declaration expired on Aug. 31.
Like the previous versions of the COVID-19 emergency declarations, this updated FMCSA response grants motor carriers and truck drivers relief from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Parts 390 through 399, with certain restrictions, when engaged in “direct assistance in support of relief efforts.” Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its drivers in the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as vaccines, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the national emergency.
The categories of essential supplies is expanded under this emergency declaration to include:
- Livestock and livestock feed.
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment, including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
- Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol.
- Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency.
FMCSA continues to remind motor carriers and truck drivers that its emergency declaration does not include routine commercial deliveries or mixed loads where a nominal quantity of essential supplies are added in an attempt at qualifying for emergency relief. To be eligible, transportation must be both: of the qualifying commodities, and related to the immediate restoration of those essential supplies.
Motor carriers and truck drivers operating under the emergency declaration must, among other listed items, must continue to comply with state and federal regulations regarding:
- Speed limits and other traffic restrictions.
- Prohibitions on the use of drugs and alcohol.
- Prohibitions on texting and the use of hand-held telephones while driving.
- Licensing and other credentials; insurance; hazardous materials requirements; vehicle size and weight limits; commercial vehicle route designations.
- Continued use of electronic logging devices and retention of driver’s record of duty status, even if operating under an hours of service (HOS) waiver.
FMCSA underscores that motor carriers must not require or allow fatigued drivers to continue to operate, even if an HOS waiver is available under this emergency declaration. A truck driver informing a carrier that he/she needs rest must be allowed at least ten consecutive hours off duty.
New to this updated emergency declaration is an attempt by FMCSA to gauge the impact of the emergency declaration. Motor carriers operating under it are now required to report, within five days after the end of each month, their reliance on the emergency declaration.
Motor carriers can access their own portal account at https://portal.fmcsa.dot.gov/login. Once logged in, go to “Emergency Declaration Reporting” under the “Available FMCSA Systems” section of that page.