FMCSA Suspends Hours-of-Service Rules to Support COVID-19 Emergency Relief EffortsApril 6, 2020
For the first time in 83 years, HOS rules have been suspended at the federal level.
Days after the coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic—and merely hours after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency—authorities at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued their own emergency declaration.
On March 13, 2020, the FMCSA announced an emergency suspension of federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules. This historical declaration marks the first time since HOS rules were put in place in 1938 that they have been suspended at the federal level.
With this suspension in effect, authorities are attempting to make it easier for truckers to move much-needed medical and consumer supplies across the nation. In the coming weeks, this declaration may prove to be vital amidst quarantines and consumer panic, the combination of which has left stores empty.
Given that truckers transport about 70% of goods (by weight) across the U.S., the FMCSA’s move to lift HOS rules for certain truck drivers may be the key to keeping communities supplied with essentials, like toilet paper, soap, and food, while officials work to contain COVID-19.
Details of the FMCSA HOS Rule Suspension: Who’s Impacted
The federal HOS rule suspension will impact truck drivers who are “providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, including transportation to meet immediate needs for”:
- Food to restock stores
- Medical supplies to diagnose and treat COVID-19
- Any supplies essential to sanitation and preventing the spread of the virus, like soaps, sanitizer, cleaning products, masks, and gloves
- Supplies for creating and maintaining quarantine and isolation areas for those exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19
- Persons designated by government authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services
According to the FMCSA, this suspension will continue until the national emergency has been lifted or until April 12th, whichever is first.
What the Federal HOS Rule Suspension Will Not Change
While lifting HOS laws for some truckers is expected to support national emergency relief efforts, this suspension does have limits. Specifically, the emergency declaration does NOT:
- Suspend HOS rules for mixed loads and routine commercial deliveries: Truckers transporting loads that include nonessential supplies and equipment will still be subject to hours-of-service laws.
- Exempt drivers and motor carriers from other requirements: Even if truckers are temporarily exempt from HOS rules, these drivers and the motor carriers they work for are still legally required to abide by other trucking regulations. This includes requirements for commercial driver licenses, drug testing, the transport of hazardous materials, cargo securement, and more.
- Provide relief for motor carriers subject to an out-of-service notice: These notices will remain in effect until motor carriers “have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA.”
Elaborating on the importance of this emergency HOS rule suspension, FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen has said:
This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently… FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.
Hurt in a Truck Accident? We Can Help
As the trucking industry focuses on supporting emergency efforts to contain COVID-19, the Amaro Law Firm is here for accident victims, ready to help in the aftermath of a crash. If you or someone you know has been hurt in an 18-wheeler wreck, contact the Amaro Law Firm for essential information about your rights and legal options.
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