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On Dec. 1, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expanded and extended yet again the emergency declaration that provides truck drivers an exemption from Parts 390 to 399 of the federal motor carrier regulations (including hours of service, vehicle inspection and driver qualification rules).

COVID-19 trucking exemptions were originally issued on March 13, 2020, but have been repeatedly expanded to remain in force throughout the current pandemic. This latest extension is set to expire on Feb. 28, 2021 or until the national state of emergency ends, whichever comes sooner.

Affected Drivers

The exemption applies to drivers who provide “direct assistance” in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes efforts to meet immediate needs for:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Vaccines, medical supplies and equipment for the administration of vaccines related to the prevention of COVID-19;
  • 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;
  • Food, paper products and other commodities for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.

The exemptions do not apply to state transportation laws and regulations (including texting restrictions and speed limits), rules on impaired or fatigued driving, crash reporting obligations, or alcohol use and testing requirements.

Drivers and carriers should review the exemptions carefully to determine their obligations, restrictions and limitations during relief efforts.

The exemption applies to drivers who are providing “direct assistance” in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Direct Assistance

  • Direct assistance includes loads containing essential supplies, equipment and persons.
  • Direct assistance excludes routine commercial deliveries and the transportation of mixed loads.
  • Mixed loads include essential cargo, along with supplies, equipment and persons that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks.

This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. ©2020 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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