WASHINGTON—The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the federal government to temporarily suspend a trucking safety law that has been in place since 1938, reports Business Insider.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which oversees regulations for America’s professional truck drivers, has announced that those drivers who are moving goods "in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks" will not have to follow the hours-of-service laws, which regulate the number hours a driver may work without rest breaks. The HOS waiver doesn’t apply to fuel transports.
This is a temporary measure and the first time the rule has been suspended on a nationwide level since it was established. It's common for states and local governments to waive hours-of- service rules during natural disasters, when consumers stock up on household goods and hospitals need medical supplies.
"Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response," said Sean McNally, spokesperson for the America Trucking Associations. "This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic."
Today, about 70% of the nation's goods by weight are moved by truck. "Everything from the fuel you put in your vehicle to consumables in your home all get put in play because of a truck driver," said Dennis Felix-Shannon, a Tampa-based driver.
Currently, truck drivers are permitted to drive only 11 hours within a 14-hour work period. They must then log 10 hours of "off-duty" time. According to the FMCSA's emergency declaration, these are the types of loads that are exempt from hours-of-service laws:
- 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
- Food for emergency restocking of stores
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.