The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has again extended its COVID-19 emergency declaration, this time through November 30, 2021. Like prior versions, the extended declaration provides certain regulatory relief for carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the pandemic emergency relief efforts.
"Direct assistance" means transportation and other relief services incident to the immediate restoration of essential services (such as medical care) or essential supplies related to COVID-19. It is limited to the following categories of transportation services: (1) livestock and livestock feed; (2) medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; (3) vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19; (4) 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; (5) food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores; (6) gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol; and (7) supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency).
Carriers and drivers who qualify under this declaration are exempted from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) while providing direct assistance to the emergency relief efforts. Notably, these Parts include driver qualification, hours of service, and vehicle maintenance requirements. The exemption does not relieve carriers and drivers of having to comply with drug/alcohol testing, CDL requirements, or having to comply with state laws such as speed limits and traffic restrictions.
"Direct assistance" terminates when the driver or vehicle is used to transport cargo that is not in support of the emergency relief efforts or when the motor carrier dispatches the driver to begin non-emergency operations. Upon termination, the operations are once again subject to all applicable safety regulations, except that the driver(s) may return empty to their normal work reporting location while still under the exemption, and must then obtain a 10-hour break if the driver has exceed his/her 14-hour clock.
A new requirement under this extension of the agency’s declaration is that carriers who utilize the exemption must file monthly reports with the agency. According to the declaration:
Motor carriers that voluntarily operate under the terms of this extension and amendment of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 are to report within 5 days after the end of each month their reliance on the Declaration. To report, motor carriers will access their portal account at https://portal.fmcsa.dot.gov/login, log-in with their FMCSA portal credentials, and access the Emergency Declaration Reporting under the Available FMCSA Systems section of the page.