For the better part of two years now and in light of the global pandemic, certain types of trucking-related activities involving delivery services have been absolved from hours of services (HOS) enforcement, the set of rules and regulations imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that place limitations on how much time truck drivers can be behind the wheel in a given day or week. And even though the worst of the COVID-19 effects appear to be in the rearview mirror, suggesting at the HOS rules can go back to normal, the waiver that allows those activities will stay in place.
Citing the fact that the United States continues to remain in an official state of emergency, the federal agency announced on May 27 that it will extend the HOS waiver that permits drivers to perform certain types of deliveries, even if doing so puts them beyond their time quota.
"FMCSA is continuing the exemption and associated regulatory relief in accordance with 49 CFR § 390.25, because the presidentially declared emergency remains in place, persistent issues arising out of COVID-19 continue to affect the U.S. including impacts on supply chains, and nationwide reporting continues to demonstrate substantial ongoing use of the regulatory relief under Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002," said Robin Hutcheson, FMCSA deputy administrator in a press release.
While the severity of symptoms associated with the coronavirus have diminished substantially over time, largely in response to so many Americans being both vaccinated and boosted — nearly 90% have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — cases have trended higher in recent weeks, with a seven-day moving average of 109,643 nationwide as of May 26. That's up from 50,650 a month earlier and approximately 26,000 at the end of March. Hospitalizations, meanwhile, have remained very low, down nearly 83%. compared to January.
The supply chain, however, continues to be in a poor state of overall health, influenced by labor shortages, rising fuel expenses and backorders working their way through a logjammed pipeline.
What shipments fall under the waiver?
For these reasons, the FMCSA deemed it necessary to extend the hours of service waiver for at least another three months. This means that livestock, livestock feed, medical supplies related to COVID-19 diagnosis and testing — such as vaccines, home test kits and personal protective equipment — will be allowed to be delivered regardless of truckers' on-duty time for the day or week.
This isn't the first time that the COVID-19 HOS waiver has been extended. Since it's implementation on March 13 in 2020, the FMCSA has remained in place, extended for either weeks or months. The extension this time will last until Aug. 31.
The aforementioned shipments aren't the only ones that are immune from hours of services rules. They also include gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas and heating oil, FreightWaves reported. All drivers who make use of the exception are expected to let the FMCSA know how they did so by reporting to the agency on a monthly, as-needed basis.
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