An updated blog on this topic was published on Dec. 1, 2020 and can be found here.

Updated, September 14, 2020– The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is again extending and altering its Emergency Declaration giving motor carriers and drivers relief from specific federal safety regulations related to the hauling of COVID-19 relief supplies.

Starting Sept. 15, and running through Dec. 31, 2020, this will replace and modify the Emergency Declaration running through Sept. 14. FMCSA said it is continuing the declaration because the presidentially declared national emergency remains in place, and because a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains.

Compared to the relief afforded by a previous Emergency Declaration, which ended on Aug. 14, the categories of essential supplies that qualify as “direct assistance in support of relief efforts” remain the same. On Aug. 11, FMCSA announced it extended the declaration through Sept. 14, 2020, following several Emergency Declarations the agency issued and revised since the first one was issued on March 13.

At that time, FMCSA designated four such categories, as groceries and paper products returned to the list:

  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
  • Livestock and livestock feed.
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment 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.

Dropped from the prior categories of essential supplies, after June 14, are:

  • Immediate precursor raw materials – such as paper, plastic or alcohol – that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items listed.
  • 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.
  • Liquefied gases used in refrigeration or cooling systems.

FMCSA has determined that there is no longer a need for emergency relief with respect to those categories of supplies, equipment and persons.

The agency is reminding motor carriers that mixed loads with a nominal quantity of essential supplies added solely to obtain relief will not qualify for the emergency declaration and, as before, carriers and drivers must continue to comply with federal regulations in several listed safety areas.

Pre-Employment Drug Testing Waiver Issued.  On June 5, FMCSA responded to an Executive Order that federal agencies waive or provide exemptions to regulations that might inhibit economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, FMCSA granted a three-month waiver from certain pre-employment drug and alcohol testing requirements.

FMCSA notes that many motor carriers have furloughed or laid off drivers during the pandemic and would now like to bring them back to work. However, under standard regulations, if the furloughed drivers were outside of a random testing pool for more than 30 days, the motor carrier would be required to conduct full pre-employment controlled substances and alcohol testing on these past employees. FMCSA recognizes challenges under the current environment including the cost of testing and the availability of testing.

Under the waiver, FMCSA extended the period for which drivers would qualify for that testing exception from 30 days to 90 days. This is an extension of the existing exception under 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) section 382.301(b) from pre-employment testing requirements.

Other existing employer requirements remain, however. An employer relying on the section 382.301(b) exception must still verify that the driver in fact participated in a controlled substances testing program during the now 90 days prior to the driver’s re-employment. They must also verify that the driver had no recorded controlled substances violations with any DOT agency during the previous six months. Lastly, a driver must have no disqualifying violations in the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

Employers must still complete the background check on testing with DOT-regulated entities who employed the driver over the past three years. Plus, FMCSA is adding an employer reporting requirement for any driver that has an accident under this waiver.

Still, under terms of this waiver, motor carriers will need to complete fewer pre-employment controlled substances tests on returning drivers. The FMCSA pre-employment drug testing waiver went into effect on June 5 and will continue through Sept. 30, 2020.

This blog was updated on Sept 14, 2020 to reflect the extension of the FMCSA Emergency Declaration.