For most truck drivers, the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are a hassle to deal with and can reduce the amount of miles on the road. That’s why, in the midsts of the COVID pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suspended the HOS rules for truck drivers that were delivering specific goods.
On July 13th, this Hours of Service suspension was extended by the FMCSA. Now, instead of ending on July 15th, the temporary suspension of HOS requirements will remain in place until August 14th. We will discuss why the decision was made and which trucking services this will affect.
Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
According to the FMCSA, this decision was made because the state of emergency declared by President Trump remains in place. The FMCSA declares that this Hours of Service exemption will continue to be suspended for drivers who “support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains”.
The FMCSA Emergency Declaration, known as No. 2020-002, says the extension “provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19”. The HOS suspension is limited to the following:
- Transportation of livestock and livestock feed
- Medical supplies as well as equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, as well as prevention of community transmission of COVID-19
The Emergency Declaration clarifies essential supplies as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants. Only the truck drivers delivering the hauls listed above are allowed to maintain the HOS emergency rules established in March 2020.
What Should Drivers Know
Because truck drivers haul different freight during the course of a 60-70 hour week, some of that freight may be related to the COVID crisis, while some of the freight may not. So here’s what truck drivers need to know about the HOS suspension:
- You do not need to participate in a 34-hour restart period between hauling emergency cargo and non-emergency supplies
- You still must take a 10-hour break after emergency related haul
- You cannot violate the weekly hour limit on non-pandemic-related runs
In addition, rules regarding how to log non-emergency haul hours into ELD are still in effect.
Freight No Longer Covered by the HOS Suspension
The original HOS suspension affected more than just the freight removed. Some items that were originally covered by the emergency suspension are no longer covered.
The rule change was likely made in response to a decline in demand. In order to adjust to the market change, the temporary HOS law suspension no longer applies to the following types of cargo:
- Fuel and gases used in cooling systems
- Toilet paper
- Raw materials needed to make medical related items
Although these items are still needed, truckers delivering the cargo above are required adhere to the standard HOS laws once more. No word was issued as to what will happen after August 15th.