The emergency declaration announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which aims to provide regulatory relief to all trucking industry workers operating within assistance efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic, has once again been extended.
“FMCSA is continuing the exemption and associated regulatory relief…because the presidentially-declared emergency remains in place and because a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains,” said the agency in its notice.
All commercial motor vehicle drivers working in direct assistance to COVID-19 emergency efforts will be covered under this renewed declaration, which has now been extended through the month of May, and may end up being extended even further.
“Extension of the Expanded Modified Emergency Declaration Number 2020-002, in accordance with 49 CFR § 390.25, effective February 17th, 2021, and shall remain in effect until May 31st, 2021, or until the revocation of the declaration of national emergency,” FMCSA announced in a tweet, along with a link leading to its “FMCSA Coronavirus Response Action Update.”
The declaration will, as was previously iterated, be applicable to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Hours of service exemptions, longer combination vehicles regulation exemptions, and exemptions regarding the parts and accessories needed for safe operation within Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are continued in this extension.
“This extension of the expanded modified emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations] for motor carriers and drivers,” explained FMCSA in its announcement.
Commercial drivers will be granted regulatory relief and exemptions in regards to the transportation of essential items needed for the health, wellbeing, and economy of the country and its citizens, including COVID-19 testing, treatment, and diagnosing-related medical supplies; vaccines, vaccine administration kits, and vaccine-related equipment and medical supplies; masks, gloves, soap, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer, as well as other supplies and resources needed for overall sanitation, safety, and prevention of COVID-19 transmission among community members; livestock and livestock feed; and food, groceries, and paper products needed for the restocking of stores and distribution centers.
This emergency declaration and regulatory relief extension will not make any drivers exempt from safety regulations and laws such as speed limits, FMCSA assured. Additionally, truckers will not receive any regulatory relief in relation to size and weight requirements, hazardous materials regulations, drugs and alcohol regulations, and commercial driver license requirements.
Fatigued drivers will also not be able to be forced to operate a truck by any motor carrier, and if a particular driver tells his or her carrier or employer that he or she is in need of immediate rest, that driver must, under regulation requirements, still be given at least 10 consecutive hours of rest time before driving again.
Direct assistance related to exemption qualifications does not include any routine commercial deliveries and will not include any drivers transporting mixed loads “with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration,” FMCSA stated in its notice.
A series of notices regarding these emergency relief declarations have been released intermittently since March 13th, 2020, and this is the latest notice–but likely not the last–since FMCSA released its initial emergency declaration. Still, the agency does indeed intend to finally “wind down” regulatory exemptions, according to FMCSA acting Administrator Meera Joshi, who explained such intention within the notice.
This will hopefully become possible, and fewer exemptions will hopefully be needed, as more vaccines become available to the general public and coronavirus numbers decline exponentially.
Joshi’s appointment to this role was announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation immediately following the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Previously, Joshi worked as the commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, the agency responsible for regulating and licensing New York City’s paratransit vehicles, medallion taxicabs, for-hire vehicles, and commuter vans.
“In the interest of ensuring continued commercial motor vehicle safety, it is FMCSA’s intention to wind down the exemptions granted under this emergency declaration and related COVID-19 regulatory relief measures to the extent possible,” said the agency in its latest announcement.