FMCSA Extends HOS Waiver Until End of August 2021

The FMCSA announced on the 26th of May that the HOS waiver will be extended yet again following its scheduled end at the end of the month.

The 50-state emergency declaration that provides HOS relief for truck drivers hauling certain types of cargo will now last through August 31, 2021. This is the latest update of the exemption that has been updated multiple times since its introduction on March 13, 2020.

For reference, the last time the HOS waiver was updated was on Feb 17, 2021, and was set to expire May 30, 2021.

What Is Covered by the FMSCA Waiver Extension?

The HOS waiver provides regulatory relief for drivers that provide “direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19”. It encompasses the following types of load:

  • 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.Immediate precursor raw materials – such as paper, plastic or alcohol – that are required and used for the manufacture of items in categories under 1, 2, or 3 – No longer under HOS waiver
  • Fuel – No longer under HOS waiver
  • Liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems – No longer under HOS waiver
  • Equipment, supplies, and persons essential to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to the virus – No longer under HOS waiver
  • Persons who are involved and are designated by Federal, State, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; – No longer under HOS waiver
  • Persons who provide essential medical and/or emergency services that may be affected by the COVID-19 response. – No longer under HOS waiver

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 regular 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 regular work reporting location. Alternatively, the driver can inform the carrier that they need immediate rest and take the 10-hour rest immediately.

Additionally, mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the HOS waiver are no longer under direct assistance by the exemption.

Lastly, the FMSCA repeated that the waiver does not mean that carriers can force fatigued drivers to operate (after switching from driving essential to non-essential cargo.) If the driver requests 10 hours rest before they return to duty, the carrier must oblige.