FMCSA suspends HoS requirements for certain drivers

Updated March 18, 2020


For the first time, the FMCSA has issued a nation-wide relief of its HoS regulations, following President Trump’s issuing of a national emergency declaration in response to COVID-19. While the Federal government has suspended Federal interstate rules in specific areas, this is the first time it’s done so across the nation.

According to the emergency declaration, published March 13, 2020, “motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.”

What this includes

Truck drivers moving medical supplies, medical equipment and essential consumer goods related to the COVID-19 outbreaks do not have to follow HoS restrictions on drive times.

Exempted loads include:

  • medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment 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 groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
  • immediate precursor raw materials, such as paper, plastic or alcohol, that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items in the first three categories (listed above)
  • fuel
  • equipment, supplies and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
  • people designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes
  • people necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response

What this does not include

This temporary suspension of the HoS regulations does not apply to routine commercial deliveries.

What to do

Drivers who are subject to this temporary exemption to support COVID-19 relief efforts need to:

  • note which of their operations that they claim fall under this direct relief exemption and why
  • keep a copy of the emergency declaration to provide law enforcement

This emergency declaration is not a blanket exemption. The FMCSA’s suspension of the HoS regulations apply only to drivers moving loads described above. All other commercial drivers, unless already exempted, are still required to maintain HoS.

Update: March 18, 2020

While the expanded declaration still carves out routine commercial deliveries from the scope of the exemption, it clarifies that mixed loads of qualifying and non-qualifying emergency relief can fall within the exemption so long as they contain more than just a nominal amount of a qualifying material added just to qualify for relief under the declaration.

If a driver needs rest

Although the FMCSA is suspending this safety regulation for now, drivers and carriers are still expected to use good judgment. Do not have ill or fatigued drivers operate vehicles. And avoid having them operate under any conditions that are dangerous to other drivers on the roads.

This exemption also requires that if a driver informs you that he or she needs immediate rest, that driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before being required to return to the terminal or normal reporting location.

Read the full emergency declaration. If you have questions about whether or not your drivers’ activity fall under this direct relief exemption, consult your own legal, or contact our dedicated Safety and Compliance team.

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