Are you operating within compliance of the new extension?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) extended and expanded the first-ever national Emergency Declaration, through Feb. 28, 2021, providing direct assistance for commercial drivers and carriers who support COVID-19 emergency relief efforts, by waiving hours of service regulations. Find out more about emergency relief extension.

The FMCSA also issued an Enforcement Notice on Dec. 15, giving commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers operating under Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002, more time to renew expiring CDLs, commercial learner’s permits and medical cards during the pandemic. 

According to the FMCSA, the extension was needed due to backlogs that exist at some State Driver’s License Agencies (SDLA) across the country, as well as a resurgence of stay-at-home orders and other emergency measures that causing further economic and logistical disruptions. The notice became effective on Jan. 1, 2021 and expires on Feb. 28, 2021.  

There have been several modifications to the original Emergency Declaration implemented last March, creating some confusion and generating ongoing questions from drivers and carriers across the country. Tim Thoelecke, Jr, founder of InOut Labs, a full service C/TPA, shares his answers to the questions he hears most frequently.  

What does the extension cover? 

Extension of the FMCSA’s national Emergency Declaration, provides direct assistance for carriers and CMV drivers who support COVID-19 emergency relief efforts, by waiving hours of service regulations. Put in simple terms, it means that Hours of Service (HoS) rules no longer apply to certain shipments. 

Drivers are given relief from parts 390 through 399 of the Title 49 Code of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) with some key exceptions:

  • CMV drivers who can safely operate a motor vehicle while transporting the essential supplies designated in the national emergency declaration,  (see next question) will be allowed to continue to operate beyond standard hours of service.
  • Drivers who provide relief assistance may travel back to their terminals with an empty trailer under the exemption.
  • Drivers moving from emergency relief efforts to normal operations must receive a minimum of 10-hours off-duty if their total time, whether they are conducting emergency relief efforts or a combination of emergency relief and normal operations, equals 14 hours. 
  • Emergency relief does not include certain exception from FMCSA regulations related to the safe operation of CMVs, such as controlled substance and alcohol testing, financial responsibility requirements, CDL requirements, operation of a CMV while ill or fatigued, size and weight requirements, and additional regulations which are outlined in the declaration.

Who qualifies? 

The extended and expanded Emergency Declaration, announced on Dec. 17, 2020, limits relief efforts for those carriers and drivers directly involved in the transportation of “Essential cargo,” specifically:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 such as vaccines, supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines;
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 including masks, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, etc.
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores. 

Motor carriers must not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate. Drivers who inform a carrier that they need immediate rest must be given at least 10 consecutive hours before they are required to return to service.  

It is important for employers and owner operators to understand that drivers whose loads do not fall into the essential categories should follow the FMCSA’s regulations prior to the changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, mixed loads with only a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief are not covered.

Do carriers or drivers need documentation verifying that they are compliant with the Emergency Declaration’s exemption? 

There is no specific documentation required for verification. Retention of ordinary business records, such as the bill of lading, may be useful for the convenience of the motor carrier and driver, to document use of the exemption during a future inspection or enforcement action.

InOut Labs encourages everyone to review the applicability, restrictions, and limitations which are included in the exemption online. If you have specific questions, about the exemption or how it’s applied, you can contact InOut Labs for more information. As a full-service C/TPA, we are well-versed in the FMCSA’s  Emergency Declaration as well as standard requirements.

InOut Labs is a full-service C/TPA, providing complete turnkey compliance systems including comprehensive drug testing packages, random consortium pooling, supervisor & driver education, record keeping materials and more. Call us today at 833.723.7997.    

Find out how you can make InOut Labs your C/TPA of choice. We make testing painless.

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