On March 13th, President Trump declared a national state of emergency in an effort to get ahead of the spread of the COVID-19 “Coronavirus.” In response, the FMCSA emergency declaration eases hours of service requirements for the transportation of emergency goods. This important measure will help bring vital goods and services to those in need across the country. Here are some important clarifications on what is and is not allowed under the emergency regulation.

1. Why did the FMCSA issue the emergency declaration?

Right now, people everywhere are preparing to self-quarantine, schools and businesses are closing down or reducing hours, and states are rushing to set up COVID-19 testing stations and emergency medical treatment centers. Our nation’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak depends greatly on the supply chain delivering vital goods. We are in short supply of many necessities across the country, including testing kits, cleaning and sanitation supplies, and food. Changing the regulations helps carrier companies meet the ongoing increase in demand.

2. How does the FMCSA emergency declaration change hours of service regulations?

The FCMSA emergency declaration granted relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, with notable exceptions. The temporary emergency declaration applies only to motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance for emergency relief efforts.

NOTE: Once a driver finishes his or her emergency relief delivery, that driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty if transporting goods, or 8 hours off-duty if transporting people.

3. What is considered “direct assistance?”

The emergency declaration defines direct assistance to emergency relief efforts as the transportation of:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
  • Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare workers, patients, and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread.
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores.
  • The equipment, supplies, and people necessary for establishing the management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
  • People designated by authorities as needing transportation for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
  • Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.

4. What is not “direct assistance?”

Direct assistance does not include:

  • Routine commercial deliveries.
  • Transportation of mixed loads that include essential supplies, equipment or persons along with supplies, equipment, or persons that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

5. Are any other regulations affected by the FMCSA emergency declaration?

As of the March 13th issuance of the declaration, the change only applies to hours of service regulations. The relief does not exempt drivers or carriers from the requirements relating to CDL, drug and alcohol screening and limitations, hazardous materials, size and weight, or State/Federal registration and taxes. However, this is a rapidly changing and fluid situation, and a Governor’s Declaration or further federal relief may add future exemptions.

6. What steps should carrier companies take when providing relief efforts?

This rapidly evolving situation means potential daily changes and updates. Be sure to coordinate with State emergency officials before providing relief assistance. Verify your current state regulations regarding size and weight, permits, taxes, etc. As of March 13, there was no stated requirement to carry a copy of the emergency declaration during transport, however, that could change.

7. How long will the FMCSA emergency declaration last?

Unless extended, the current FMCSA emergency declaration expires at 11 :59 P.M. (ET) April 12, 2020.

8. Who do I call if I have questions about the FMCSA emergency declaration?

In Arizona, you can contact the Arizona Trucking Association for up-to-date information. You can find information online or call the ATA at 602-850-6000.

For up-to-date information regarding the federal emergency declaration, refer to the online statement, or call the FMCSA at 877-831-2250.

Additional Considerations to Keep in Mind

  • Stay smart: Your best defense in any emergency is a level head and common sense. If your office staff can work from home, make it happen. Drivers should use their best judgment and take breaks when feeling fatigued. And if any of your workers show signs of illness, make sure they’re following best practices of self-quarantine!
  • Keep up with the latest information: Follow all CDC, WHO, local, state, and federal directives pertaining to the containment of COVID-19. Mandatory quarantine and additional containment measures may take precedence over the FMCSA emergency declaration. Check with your local authorities if you have questions.
  • Become part of the solution: While port volumes remain low, especially on the West Coast, the supply chain is still vital to COVID-19 containment. Reach out to your state’s trucking association to see how you can repurpose your idle trucks to lend assistance through this state of emergency.

F|Staff Helps You Provide Additional Relief

In the wake of COVID-19, you can expect drivers to call out sick, and fatigue is sure to set in. That’s where F|Staff comes in. The F|Staff app lets you keep up with the demand for relief efforts while giving your ill and tired drivers the breaks they need. Through F|Staff, you can find drivers on a moment’s notice right from your smartphone. And with F|Staff, you’ll keep your costs down, because you’ll only pay for the driver’s time you use.

Fill out the form online to get registered as an F|Staff carrier, and get your crew ready to keep America moving through and beyond COVID-19.