Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

FMCSA releases COVID-19 HOS Emergency Declaration (Periodic updates included)

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

June 9 Update: The FMCSA has declared that the continuing national emergency warrants the extension and modification of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002. This notice extends the exemption through July 14, 2020. It is important to note that provisions for the exemption have changed, limiting the regulatory relief to CMV operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 and is limited to transportation of (1) livestock and livestock feed; (2) medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19; and (3) 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. Read the details here.

May 13 Update: On May 13, the FMCSA declared that the continued COVID-19 national emergency has warranted in an extension of the Declaration, and so the exemption has been extended through June 14, 2020. The extension shall remain in effect until the revocation of the national emergency or through June 14, whichever is sooner.

April 9 Update: FMCSA has extended its Expanded Emergency Declaration through May 15, 2020, allowing motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the COVID-19 emergency relief efforts to continue operating under the exemptions set forth in the declaration through that date. The agency also expanded the declaration’s list of covered services to include the transportation of liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems. Lastly, the agency clarified that, in addition to other regulations referenced in the Expanded Declaration (e.g., drug/alcohol testing, CDL requirement, hazardous materials regulations), drivers operating under the declaration are not exempt from 49 C.F.R. 392.2—relating to operation of commercial motor vehicles in accordance with state laws such as speed limits and traffic restrictions—or 49 C.F.R. 392.3—relating to operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s alertness is so impaired or likely to become impaired due to fatigue or illness as to make it unsafe for him/her to continue doing so.

March 19 Update: With regard to the HOS impact on our applications, the FMCSA has issued FAQs that provide various methods which allow drivers to track miles driven in compliance with this Emergency Declaration.  The first is to use “authorized personal use” or personal conveyance.  They also indicate the driver may continue using the device in line with the previous guidance supplied. That is, Omnitracs-hosted and mobile units will continue tracking HOS and any associated potential violations. Drivers need to annotate the ELD record to indicate they were driving under the emergency relief exemption. No code changes or updates will be needed. If a driver is carrying a load that meets requirements, violation warnings, countdowns, and flags will still be in place. We highly recommend back-office teams document the drivers falling under the exemption to ensure operational efficiency.

March 18 Update: The FMCSA has expanded the Emergency Declaration to include the following points:

  • Direct emergency assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries. Therefore, commercial loads mixed with a small supply of emergency items do not qualify exemption under the Declaration.
  • Raw materials, such as paper, plastic, and alcohol, needed to combat COVID-19 are now included in the emergency items list.
  • Fuel has been added as an emergency relief item. 

I have updated our links below to direct you to the Expanded Emergency Declaration, and I kindly request that you read it in full to review all additions. 

In addition to this expansion, President Trump signed and passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act today. The new law will be in effect from April 2 through December 31, 2020. The Act consists of a multitude of stimulus measures, along with the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued an Emergency Declaration suspending federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for operations engaged in COVID-19 emergency relief through the termination of the emergency or April 12, whichever comes first. This announcement follows President Trump declaring COVID-19 a national emergency on March 13.

This Declaration is imperative in ensuring that vital supplies and transportation services are distributed to areas requiring emergency relief. Your fleet must be providing direct emergency assistance in order to meet exemption requirements, and additional restrictions still apply. According to the FMCSA, drivers and carriers should still coordinate with state emergency officials to verify they’re covered under this exemption, as state regulations regarding weight, taxes, and size may not be waived.

The FMCSA also emphasizes that it is of utmost importance that motor carriers maintain responsibility and prioritize the safety of their drivers in order to avoid hazardous incidents brought on by fatigued driving that could jeopardize safety and the expedited transport and distribution of time-sensitive emergency aid.

Declaration details

To maintain fluidity and operational efficiency, I have highlighted the FMCSA’s specific criteria of this Emergency Declaration. Please note that you must review the full Declaration to make certain your loads apply, but you can read below to best understand if and how this may pertain to your fleet:

  • Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, pending no additional restrictions apply.
  • This covers transportation and immediate needs for relief items, including medical supplies, food for emergency restocking, and persons necessary to provide medical or emergency services.
  • If a driver informs their motor carrier they require immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.

There is no requirement for a driver to carry the Declaration in the vehicle with them; however, we do recommend drivers and carriers keep a copy of the Declaration easily accessible in order to ensure continued understanding as to how the provisions apply to them. It must also be stressed that the FMCSA Emergency Declaration does not provide relief from Canadian HOS regulations — even for U.S. domiciled carriers transporting emergency relief items across the border. This means that any HOS exemptions in the U.S. will be treated as violations in Canada if they exceed Canadian HOS regulations.

Specifics for our customers

With regard to the HOS impact on our applications, Omnitracs-hosted and mobile units will continue tracking HOS and any associated potential violations. No code changes or updates will be needed. If a driver is carrying a load that meets requirements, violation warnings, countdowns, and flags will still be in place. We highly recommend back-office teams document the drivers falling under the exemption to ensure operational efficiency.

On March 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provided clarity to DOT-regulated employers, employees, and service agents on conducting DOT drug and alcohol testing during the COVID-19 crisis.  The guidance should be used to understand how regulatory compliance with DOT and modal drug and alcohol testing programs applies during this period of national emergency.

Additional notes of interest

Given the exceptional rise in demand due to increasing fear from emerging COVID-19 cases around North America, supply chains and fleets are struggling to keep up with HOS regulations while expediting delivery for the most in-demand goods, such as health and sanitation supplies.

In addition to this, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislative package early this morning in response to the spread of coronavirus. The bill includes provisions for paid emergency leave and free testing for COVID-19.

Please continue to monitor the FMCSA’s list of emergency declarations, waivers, exemptions, and permits to ensure continued compliance and cooperation with the federal government and consumer needs.