FMCSA Extends Coronavirus HOS Exemptions to September, Adds Grocery Restocking Back to the List

Date: Thursday, August 13, 2020
Source: Transport Dive

FMCSA extends coronavirus HOS exemptions to September, adds grocery restocking back to the list

The FMCSA's emergency declaration modifications signal that, while the pandemic is ongoing, the supply chain is able to more efficiently meet demand for essential products and people.

When the FMCSA originally issued the emergency declaration March 13, consumers were clearing shelves. Grocery items and personal protective equipment (PPE) were difficult to come by. The agency accounted for that on its list of items that qualified the driver for HOS exemptions under the emergency declaration.

After a couple modifications, the FMCSA's list of items was at its fullest after an extension issued April 8:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the coronavirus.
  • Supplies and equipment for preventative measures in healthcare facilities and communities, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Equipment, supplies and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing and quarantine facilities.
  • People who federal, state or local governments say need transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
  • Emergency personnel.
  • Paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
  • Immediate precursor raw materials — including paper, plastic or alcohol — to be used for the manufacture of essential items.
  • Fuel.
  • Liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems.

Now, that list comprises:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the coronavirus.
  • Supplies and equipment for preventative measures in healthcare facilities and communities, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
  • Livestock and livestock feed.

Eliminations from the list of qualifying items reflect the reopening of businesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a continued decrease or stabilization of the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus across the country. Other reports, though, show recent spikes in COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

As the FMCSA's emergency HOS exemptions apply to fewer types of loads, fleets are looking ahead to the implementation of the agency's final HOS rule, set to take effect late September.

"With all the uncertainty of late, carriers and shippers appreciate the HOS changes," Gail Rutkowski, executive director at the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC), told Transport Dive, discussing the final rule. "Any added flexibility is a good thing."

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