FMCSA Expands HOS Rules to Cover Transport of COVID-19 Vaccine

WASHINGTON – In the latest update to the HOS emergency waiver originally passed Mar. 14 as the Emergency Declaration Under 49 CFR & 390.23 No.2020.002, the HOS rules will cover the transport of COVID-19 vaccines.

The FMCSA has extended the Emergency Declaration to last through February 28, 2021. Before this extension, the Emergency Declaration was to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.

As an addition, the declaration will now include commercial motor vehicles, carriers, and commercial drivers that are transporting COVID-19 vaccines.

As it currently stands, the Emergency Declaration waives the Hours-of-Service regulations for CMV drivers and carriers that are providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.

The above-mentioned relief efforts are limited to the transportation of the following:

  1. Livestock and livestock feed;
  2. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
  3. Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment, including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19;
  4. 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; and
  5. Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.

The above categories are exempted from Part 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), except for the regulations listed below.

Regulations Not Covered by the Dec. Extension of the HOS Exemption

Although the exception covers some FMCSA regulations to provide relief for truckers providing direct assistance to the national emergency, the following regulations do not fall under this exemption:

  • 49 CFR § 392.2 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with State laws and regulations, including compliance with applicable speed limits and other traffic restrictions.
  • 49 CFR § 392.3 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle.
  • Motor carriers shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A driver who informs a carrier that he/she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.
  •  49 CFR §§ 392.80 and 392.82 related to the prohibitions on texting while driving and using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.
  • A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while operating under this emergency declaration must report any recordable crash within 24 hours, by phone or in writing, to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The carrier must report the date, time, location, driver, vehicle identification, and brief description of the crash.
  • Nothing in the Emergency Declaration or this Extension shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically exempted under 49 CFR § 390.23.
  • Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA in writing.

When Is Direct Assistance Terminated?

According to the Emergency Declaration, “Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 outbreaks or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce.”

In some cases, drivers are still exempt from Parts 390 through 399, and that is when the driver is to return empty to the carrier’s terminal or normal work reporting location. Other than in the case above, the driver is immediately subject to the requirements of 49 CFR parts 390 through 399. Normal hours-of-work still apply here, and the driver is to rest 10 hours after they get back to the carrier’s terminal or normal work reporting location. Alternatively, the driver can inform the carrier that they need immediate rest and take the 10-hour rest immediately.

Other Expansions of the Emergency Declaration

Since the introduction of the FMCSA Emergency Declaration, there have been multiple expansions and extensions of the HOS waiver: