Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

COVID-19 has temporarily changed the way we do compliance — here are a few ways how (Periodic updates included)

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

December 15 Update: On December 15, 2020, the FMCSA officially extended their CDL/CLP/Medical Certificates waiver. Per the FMCSA, this extension was required as a result of the potential backlogs at driver's license agencies across the country. This extension is set to expire on February 28, 2021. You can read the full waiver here.

September 21 Update: On Friday, September 18, the FMCSA granted a further extension of its waiver of the validity of CDLs, learner's permits for commercial drivers, and driver medical certificates. The extension is effective from October 1, 2020, and it will last through December 31, 2020.

Since COVID-19 has emerged as a global pandemic, the face of compliance has shifted drastically in many respects for our customers in the U.S. and Canada. These past several months, we’ve covered many compliance-related developments, including the Federal Motor Carrier’s Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS) Emergency Declaration and Transport Canada’s HOS exemption.

The coronavirus compliance chronicles haven’t ended there, though. And for compliance in the U.S., the state of the country is mirrored in recent numbers. As of June 26, there have been approximately 9.8 million coronavirus cases around the world, and 2.5 million cases are in the U.S.

Remote compliance audits are quickly becoming the norm

To do their part in combatting the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country, the FMCSA announced in May they would begin conducting off-site performance reviews for commercial vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic. While situational, off-site audits have been gaining ample traction since 2018. The agency concluded that safety administrators can still follow all evaluation procedures remotely, and this process will not hinder safety and compliance regulations. This guidance shall remain in effect until the revocation of the presidentially-declared COVID-19 national emergency.

In their statement, the FMCSA emphasized that conducting these reviews off-site will limit coronavirus exposure risk for the trucking community and safety administrators. The agency credits the seamlessness of the off-site process to advancements in telematics and electronic recordkeeping.

To ensure a satisfactory review, carriers should walk through all compliance-related areas, including Hours of Service (HOS) logs and drug and alcohol testing.

The status of cross-border compliance

Just last week, officials for the U.S., Mexico, and Canada stated that the borders between the U.S. and Mexico and Canada would remain closed, except for essential travel, for at least another month. The borders have remained closed to nonessential travel to limit the exposure and spread of the coronavirus. As trucking is an essential industry, borders are remaining open to trucks for the benefit of the economy.

Allowances for CDL training and testing

On June 22, the FMCSA extended a temporary waiver allowing state-authorized test examiners to administer the commercial driver’s license (CDL) knowledge test without previously completing the previously required CDL training course. This temporary allowance was initially authorized in early April, and it has been extended until September 30 or until the presidential declaration declaring COVID-19 a national emergency is revoked.

While allowances have been made to allow potential drivers to take the test without the required training, third-party examiners must have previously completed the CDL examiner’s course to administer the exam. Justification for the allowances has been pointed toward the continued need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, and with 26 states seeing a massive increase in coronavirus cases, this need is only heightening.

A temporary waiver on CDLs and medical certifications

The FMCSA has also issued a temporary waiver around expired CDLs and medical certifications. The waiver states that holders of these licenses and certifications may continue to operate without renewing their licenses until September 30. This waiver was first issued late March and has been extended from its original end date of June 30.

The waiver states that enforcement will not be taken against commercial motor vehicle drivers with an expired CDL or medical card, granted that both were valid on February 29, 2020.

I will continue to update you on any relevant COVID-19 topics related to compliance in the coming months. In the meantime, I encourage you to read our recent blog post covering the CDC’s COVID-safety guidance for long-haul truckers.