Back to Blog

Coronavirus Trucking Understanding the Emergency Declaration by the FMCSA

By Vineet Baid on March 24, 2020


On 18th March, the FMCSA released an Emergency Declaration keeping in terms with the national emergency due to the serious spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). As per the Emergency Declaration, commercial drivers who are engaged in providing ‘direct assistance’ have been exempt from 42 CFR parts 390-399 (what qualifies as direct assistance is listed out further below). This exemption has been made to ensure the delivery and transportation of emergency services possible all across the country. It must be noted here in this regard that the Emergency Declaration will be applicable with immediate effect and will remain in effect till either the emergency situation is terminated as defined in 49 CFR § 390.5 or until 12th April 11:59 P.M. (ET), whichever is the earlier.

EDIT 12/4: FMCSA has extended this till February 28th, 2021.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Trucking

The COVID-19 has affected all parts of the world and President Donald Trump has declared the situation a national emergency. This pandemic calls for holistic support. This National emergency situation has created a large demand for the immediate supply of equipment, necessary medical supplies and essential products. Being the backbone of the American economy, trucks are being largely relied upon by the entire nation. In an attempt to make the immediate supply of all the necessary goods and services (including medical assistance, food and fuel), equipment as hassle-free as possible, FMCSR or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations has released this Emergency Declaration.   

Who Qualifies as ‘Direct Assistance’?

  • Any medical good or equipment that is required for the diagnosis, testing and treatment of COVID-19.
  • For the sake of maintaining community safety, sanitation and protection from the spread of COVID-19 in the community, which includes gloves, masks, soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectants.  
  • For emergency restocking of stores or distribution centers that are supplying paper products, food and other necessary grocery items.
  • For manufacturing all the above-mentioned items, supplying the required raw materials like alcohol, paper and plastic.
  • Supplying fuel.
  • For the establishment and management of isolation and quarantine facilities including temporary housing that is required to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, supplying and transporting the required people, equipment and goods.
  • Transporting the people who have been designated by the Federal, State or local authorities for providing COVID-19 affected/impacted with the necessary isolation, quarantine and medical facilities.
  • Transporting the people who will be in a position to provide other required emergency or medical services in situations when those who have been affected due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Medical Supplies Covid19

 

So, hours of service as discussed under Parts 390 – 399 is no longer required for drivers who meet the conditions above. This means a 30-minute break or driving hour limits will not be enforced. It is still important for all truck drivers to use precaution and be safe on the roads.

Who Does Not Qualify Under These Exemptions:

It has been made clear in the Emergency Declaration that ‘direct assistance’ does NOT include the following services:

•  The operation of commercial deliveries that take place routinely.

•  If commercial drivers and motor carriers are engaged in operating with mixed loads (carrying regular load with a very low stock of the goods and services which qualify as ‘emergency relief’) in an attempt to secure benefits of not having to oblige with Parts 390-399.

Other Requirements for Those who are Exempt:

The motor carriers and commercial drivers are required to note that the Emergency Declaration has not provided them exemption from the following basic requirements that are still required:

•  All commercial drivers are required to abide by the use and testing requirements of alcohol and controlled substances.

•  All drivers have to follow the requirements of Commercial Drivers’ Licenses or CDL as per the norms of the FMCSA.

•  The requirements of financial responsibility or insurance remain the same as during usual circumstances.

•  The requirements of regulations for carrying hazardous materials remain the same as during usual circumstances.

•  The requirements of applicable size and weight of the commercial motor vehicles remain the same as during usual circumstances.

•  All other sections of the regulations that have not been particularly exempted to under 49 CFR § 390.23.

Moreover, all motor carriers and commercial drivers who are at present under out-of-service orders are not considered eligible for reliefs and exemptions that have been granted by the Emergency Declaration. Once those carriers fulfill the required conditions for the revocation of the out-of-service orders and have been approved by the FMCSA, then they can be eligible for the transportation of ‘direct assistance’ goods and services.

With regard to the 60/70– hour rule, the hours the commercial drivers have driven while they are engaged in providing ‘direct assistance’ by hauling emergency goods and essential services to combat the outbreaks of COVID-19 will not be counted in it.

What happens when a driver goes from ‘direct assistance’ back to regular operations?

The 34-hour restart time will not be required for the commercial drivers who are engaged in providing ‘direct assistance’ by hauling emergency goods and essential services. However, once the commercial drivers complete their trip carrying goods categorized under relief for direct assistance and go back to normal operations, they will be required to fulfill the requirements mentioned in §§ 395.3(a) and (c) and 395.5(a). Some of these requirements include the following:

 

    • Commercial drivers who are carrying property are required to fulfill a compulsory off-duty period of 10 consecutive hours.
    • Commercial drivers who are carrying passengers are required to fulfill a compulsory off-duty period of 8 consecutive hours.
    • Commercial drivers are expected to fulfill the required on-duty time limit of 60/70 hours in 7/8 days before which they will not be allowed to drive again.

Are RODS still required for ‘direct assistance’ drivers?

As the Emergency Declaration has provided certain commercial drivers exemption from maintaining Hours of Service regulations, those who are exempt have also been granted relief from recordkeeping requirements. Hence, these commercial drivers are not required to maintain RODS or records of duty status.

What if I have an ELD and I am considered ‘direct assistance’?

For those truckers who are hauling goods that are considered as 'relief for direct assistance’ and have ELD devices in their trucks, they can follow any of the following in order to account for the miles they have driven in providing the ‘direct assistance’:

1.     These commercial drivers can turn the ELD off. If the commercial drivers do so, the unassigned miles will be addressed by the motor carriers keeping in mind the present regulation issued by the FMCSA.

2.     These commercial drivers can use the ELD in normal mode. If the commercial drivers do so, they will be able to annotate the ELD record in order to mention that they were engaged in driving under the exemption provided by the FMCSA’s relief for ‘direct assistance’.

3.     The commercial drivers who are engaged in driving under the exemption provided by the FMCSA’s relief for ‘direct assistance’ also have the option to record all the hours they have driven in order to provide ‘direct assistance’ by using their ELD’s “authorized personal use” function. By using this function, all the hours which have driven in order to provide ‘direct assistance’ will get recorded as ‘off-duty’. However, these ‘off-duty’ hours will require annotation.

All three of the above can be completed on ELD Mandate. For option 1) – a fleet manager can assign unassigned driving through the back-end portal. For option 2) annotations can be made when editing a log. For option 3) drivers need to be careful to select Personal use before driving each time and ensure that all the driving events have personal use select before driving the truck.

Does transportation of livestock qualify?

Commercial drivers who have a load of livestock will be granted the exemptions mentioned in the Emergency Declaration. This is because livestock is treated as a ‘precursor to food’. It must be noted in this regard that the ‘regulatory relief of FMCSR’ has been granted for those commercial drivers who are carrying goods for the purpose of emergency restocking of the stores or the distribution centers, supplying paper products, food and other necessary grocery items. 

Does removal of household or medical waste qualify?

The commercial drivers who are involved with the transportation of the removal of both medical and household waste will be granted the exemptions mentioned in the Emergency Declaration. It must be noted in this regard that the ‘regulatory relief of FMCSR’ has been granted for those commercial drivers who are carrying goods for the purpose of maintaining community safety, sanitation and protection from the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

What is needed in order for verification of exemptions?

While there are no specific requirements of documents for verification purpose, the commercial drivers and motor carriers who are involved in providing ‘relief of direct assistance’, are advised to keep the ordinary business records like the bills of lading. This may be useful for motor carriers and commercial drivers while documenting the use of the exemption mentioned in the Emergency Declaration if any future inspection or audit takes place. To see who is exempt from ELDs even without the Emergency Declaration see this article which has a list of all ELD Mandate Exemptions.

How Does This Impact Canadian and Mexican Routes?

USA and Canada have a good trucking relationship. Goods are transported on a daily basis to and from both the countries. However, given the current situation due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in both USA and Canada, a restriction has been issued on non-essential goods. Only those goods and travel requirements which are regarded as ‘essential’ are allowed to cross the borders. While Canada has imposed certain border restrictions (officials may ask additional questions to determine if the people who are crossing the international border have been suffering from any symptom) but truck drivers along with nurses and firefighters have been exempt. However, they have been advised to self-monitor themselves closely and maintain self-isolation if any COVID-19 symptom surfaces.

In a similar vein, USA has imposed a similar travel restriction on Mexico as well. Only ‘essential goods’ are permitted.

How is Trucking in Europe During the Coronavirus?

This is not an America alone problem. The entire world is taking some measure or the other in order to ensure that people get all the possible medical help along with emergency services that are required during this critical time. The European Commission, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 is determined to keep the citizens’ health the first priority. Hence, even during such pressing times, the movement of essential transportation of medical goods and other important services has been kept as normal as it is possible, given the situation. Different countries are discussed below.

EU Trucking Coronavirus

 

Austria

Apart from cargo and cross-border workers, Austria has imposed controls on its internal border to Italy since 10th March 2020. No vehicle is permitted to enter Austria from Italy if they are unable to provide a health certificate which is not older than 4 days. Alternatively, they are required to adopt a home quarantine for 2 weeks. However, the vehicles are permitted to drive without any further stops in Austria. The same border control measure has also been made applicable for Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 14th March 2020.

Moreover, especially for heavy goods vehicles which have a gross weight of more than 7.5 tonnes, the usual weekend traffic ban and the truck drivers’ maximum permissible driving periods have been suspended.

Estonia

From 17th March 2020, only the citizens of Estonia and its residents are being allowed to enter the country.

Germany

Cross-border transportation of goods and people between Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark are being permitted but are subject to border checks since 16th March 2020. However, for the people who are having symptoms or are travelling for other reasons may expect to face restrictions for travelling into and from Germany.

From 18th March 2020 to 17th April 2020, the drivers of vehicles which are transporting necessary goods like medicine, medical protective equipment, food and fuels have been given a relaxation in terms of driving and rest hours.

Hungary

From 17th March 2020, only Hungarian citizens are being allowed to enter the country. This restriction has been made applicable for all modes of transportation.

Ireland

From 16th March 2020, everyone entering Ireland are being subject to a quarantine of 14 days. However, exemption has been issued for those who are engaged in hauling essential goods and services.

Italy

In Italy, internal movement is only being allowed for health and work requirements. However, people are required to prove the health and work requirements by self-declaring on the printed forms which are being provided by the enforcement officers.

From 17th March 2020 onwards ordinary transportation of people and other connections to and from Sicily has been suspended but goods are being allowed to be transported.

Luxembourg

From 19th March 2020 to 17th April 2020, drivers of vehicles which are engaged in national and international freight transportation have been given a relaxation in terms of driving and rest hours.

Malta

From 18th March 2020 to 16th April 2020, drivers of vehicles which are engaged in the transportation of goods have been given a relaxation in terms of driving and rest hours.

Slovakia

From 19th March 2020 to 17th April 2020, the drivers of vehicles which are engaged in the transportation of goods, both in domestic and international spheres, have been given a relaxation in terms of driving and rest hours.

Spain

All land entry has been restricted from 16th March 2020 for only the following:

·       People who live in Spain

·       Spanish citizens

·       Cross-border workers

·       People who are able to prove by showing documents that there is a either a situation of need or have causes of force majeure

However, no such restriction has been imposed on the transportation of goods.

The above-mentioned countries have imposed explicit restrictions or exemptions with regard to land transportation of goods and people. However, all the other European countries have imposed some restriction or the other with regard to the mobility of people, both internally and internationally in an attempt to break the chain of the spread of the COVID-19 outbreaks.  

We just want to take this time to thank all the incredible truck drivers out there who are making sure citizens all over the World have all the necessities in hand to fight off this invisible enemy - the Coronavirus. 




Vineet Baid

Vineet Baid
Like the simple things in life like chocolates, beer, and fries.


21 POSTS

Is Customer Service Important To You? We Have the highest rated ELD device in the industry.

Leave A Reply

Contact us

1-800-968-1869

Live Representatives 24/7/365, no waiting.