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9 Federal COVID-19 Emergency Actions & Regulatory Relief Efforts Affecting Trucking

As the COVID-19 national emergency continues, the federal government is using its authority to grant carriers and drivers flexibility to expedite emergency relief. Below is a compilation and summary, in date order, of specific Federal emergency relief actions directly affecting the trucking industry. The purpose of this compilation is to provide DriverReach customers with a single source describing the most relevant federal actions and what they mean for trucking companies and commercial drivers.

Action #1 – March 18, 2020FMCSA “Expanded Emergency Declaration Under 49 CFR 390.23

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – This second and more comprehensive emergency declaration (initial FMCSA emergency declaration issued on March 13) exempts drivers from delivering specific emergency supplies identified by FMCSA from federal safety rules like hours of service, ELDs, driver-vehicle inspection reports and others. Importantly, this means that time spent in response to the emergency does not need to be documented or counted toward daily and weekly work limits. The exemption ends when the driver hauls freight not intended for emergency relief. 

Effective ThroughThe end of the national emergency or April 12, 2020, whichever is sooner.

Action #2 – March 19, 2020 – DHS – Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – Issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this memorandum contains a list of “essential critical infrastructure workers” to help state and local official protect their communities. The list explicitly includes employees supporting or enabling transportation, including truck drivers. This allows truck drivers to continue to cross international and state borders free as well as operating in shelter-in-place jurisdictions.

Effective Through – There is no expiration date to this memorandum.

Action #3 – March 19, 2020 – FMCSA “Frequently Asked Questions Related to the FMCSA Emergency Declaration

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – Issued to address confusion about the emergency declarations, this FMCSA document provides clarity around questions about which loads qualify, how to document the trip, and when the exemption ends. 

Effective Through – The termination of FMCSA’s emergency declaration.

Action #4 – March 20, 2020FMCSA “Notice of Enforcement Discretion Determination” on Temporary Operating Authority

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? This notice waives the $100 fee typically collected for carriers seeking temporary for-hire operating authority to provide emergency relief. This will make it easier for carriers to enter the industry or augment their operating authority to quickly haul emergency supplies.

Effective Through – The termination of FMCSA’s emergency declaration.

Action #5 – March 24, 2020FMCSA “Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency – For States, CDL Holders and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles

What does it mean for carriers/drivers?Issued in response to the closing of many state licensing agencies, this notice allows states to extend the validity of CDLs that expired on or after March 1, 2020 and permits drivers to operate a CMV if their CDL expired, or their medical certificate expired on or after March 1, 2020 and was originally issued for 90 days or longer.

Effective Through – The waiver is effective through June 30, 2020.

 Action #6 – March 24, 2020FMCSA “Notice of Enforcement Policy Regarding Expiring Driver’s Licenses and Medical Examiner’s Certificates During COVID-19 National Emergency

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – This notice goes hand-in-glove with the “waiver” described in #5 above and advises the industry of FMCSA’s new, temporary policy to not take enforcement action against carriers and their drivers operating with a CDL, CLP or medical certificate that expired on or after March 1, 2020.

Effective Through – The enforcement policy is effective through June 30, 2020.

Action #7 – March 24, 2020FMCSA “Disruptions to Drug and Alcohol Testing Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Presidentially Declared National Emergency”

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – Issued in response to questions and concerns about the availability of drug testing services during the national emergency, this guidance clarifies that, while the drug testing regulations remain in effect, carriers have flexibility in how they comply. Specifically, the guidance advises carriers that if random testing cannot be conducted as a result of the emergency, carriers can make up the tests by the end of the year to be sure they test the minimum percentages of persons annually. 

The guidance also advises carriers that if they are unable to complete required tests due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, carriers must thoroughly document why they could perform the test and their efforts to secure alternative testing facilities. Finally, the guidance clarifies that pre-employment testing must be completed before a driver is allowed to drive a vehicle requiring a CDL.

Effective Through – This guidance is effective through June 30, 2020.

Action #8 – March 25, 2020 – FMCSA Frequently Asked Questions Related to FMCSA Emergency Declaration Part 2

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – This second round of FAQs seeks to clarify the commodities the national declaration applies to as well as answering additional questions related to Hours of Service rules applicability. In short, FMCSA clarified that the delivery of raw materials used to make essential commodities qualifies for the exemption and that drivers must take 10-hours off duty at the nearest, reasonable, safe location after finishing delivering emergency goods.

Effective Through – The termination of FMCSA’s emergency declaration.

Action #9 – March 28, 2020 – FMCSA “Three-Month Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency For States and CLP Holders Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles”

What does it mean for carriers/drivers? – This waiver allows a CLP holder to operate a CMV without an accompanying CDL holder present in the front seat of the vehicle, provided that the CDL holder is elsewhere in the truck cab (i.e., in the sleeper). It also allows a State to give a driving skills test to any non domiciled CDL applicant, regardless of where the applicant received driver training, which accelerates the CDL licensing process.

Effective Through – The end of the national emergency or June 30, 2020, whichever is sooner.

Article contributed by industry regulatory expert, Dave Osiecki of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting and consultant to DriverReach. For more information on Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, visit: https://www.scopelitisconsulting.com/

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