March 16, 2020

Emergency Hours-of-Service Relief Declared for Truck Drivers

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an emergency declaration that provides relief from its hours-of-service (HOS) rules to truck drivers engaged in emergency coronavirus, or COVID-19, relief efforts.

The declaration is in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks and the need for increased transportation to move immediate supplies, equipment, and persons to impacted communities. Per the declaration, immediate needs include ‘food for emergency restocking of stores’, although FMCSA has indicated thus far that it will not delve into creating specific lists or categories of approved foods eligible for HOS relief.

Other noteworthy information:

  • This declaration is not industry-wide, and inspections for HOS violations will not be suspended. FMCSA will continue to monitor for violations, especially if they do not fall under this emergency declaration umbrella.
  • Drivers are not required to carry declaration-related documentation. However, we have heard of some instances where some carriers may want more official confirmations from suppliers that their buyers need certain products for emergency efforts. During this uncertain time with rapidly changing circumstances, documentation should be considered as a good practice.
  • Shippers of eligible product may want to consider labeling bills of lading (BOLs) as ‘emergency supplies’ and monitor mixed loads, to ensure shipments remain under our current interpretation of emergency or essential supplies.
  • FMCSA is continuing to coordinate with state and local entities, to ensure minimal confusion and coordinate efforts surrounding trucking oversight. This includes addressing the burgeoning question of cities/counties taking measures to ‘shelter in place’ or limit travel entirely, as what was recently done in the Bay Area.
  • FMCSA is also actively working to address issues pertaining to the drivers themselves, such as how to deal with drivers showing symptoms, self-quarantine mandates, shuttering of areas like highway rest stops, delayed drug testing, and other matters.

This declaration is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until the termination of the emergency or until 11:59 PM EST on April 12, 2020, whichever occurs sooner. Until then, FMCSA has acknowledged that there may be modifications and expansions to the waiver, as changing circumstances warrant.

FMCSA has created an email through which to receive questions about this declaration: [email protected] 

Western Growers is actively monitoring the situation and working to obtain further guidance and clarification from FMCSA. Please contact Tracey Chow ([email protected], 202-704-7312) with any questions you may have.