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FMCSA Extends Regulatory Waiver For Drivers Responding To COVID-19 Emergencies

As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended the emergency declaration no: 2020-002 through Dec.31.2020. FMCSA grants regulatory waiver that applies to interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP)holders and other interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The Declaration was issued late Friday and is the first multi-month extension of the HOS exemption since the order was initiated in March. The five previous extensions lasted until the following month with the last set to expire on September 14. 

FMCSA is continuing to extend the regulatory waiver because of the presidential Declaration about national emergency and is needed to support the direct emergency assistance for some supply chains. The extension addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and also provides necessary relief from federal regulations for motor carriers and drivers.

Who is applicable for FMCSA’s extended regulatory waiver?

  • Interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders
  • Interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs)  

The exemption gives drivers and carriers regulatory relief and flexibility to move certain products and cargo in support of joined efforts related to Covid-19. According to FMCSA, this exemption applies to the shipment of the following supplies:

  • Livestock and livestock feed
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
  • Supplies and equipment required for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community spread of COVID-19. These include masks, gloves, soap, sanitizers and disinfectants. 
  • Food, paper products and other groceries that are essential for emergency restocking of distribution centres or stores. 

This FMCSA extension is not applicable for routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration. 

The employer’s role

Employers must continue to select drivers at the required rate of 50% of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances and 10% for random alcohol testing during the calendar year 2020. If a test is unable to be completed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the motor carrier must maintain written documentation of the specific reasons for non-compliance. 

For instance, employers should document closures or restricted use of testing facilities or the unavailability of testing personnel. Besides, employers should also register actions taken to identify alternative testing sites or other testing resources. 

Similarly, employers who are unable to ensure the dates for administering random controlled substances and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the year should document the specific reasons why they did not meet this requirement. 

Emergency declaration details – restrictions and limitations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had set an Emergency Declaration in response to the Coronavirus pandemic to ease out the pressure building on fleet companies and truckers that directly assist the current situation.

By execution of this extension to Emergency Declaration 2020-002, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to a national emergency are not granted emergency relief from FMCSA. They must continue to comply with the FMCSA’s following regulations and conditions:

  • Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts for COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations. 
  • This includes transportation and immediate needs for relief items, including medical supplies, food for emergency restocking and persons necessary for providing medical or emergency services. 
  • If a driver informs his motor carrier company that they require immediate rest, then the driver must be permitted at least ten consecutive hours off duty. 
  • Operation of a CMV while a driver’s ability to drive is impaired or likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness or any other cause making it unsafe for the driver to begin or continue operating the commercial motor vehicle. 
  • The motor carrier or fleet companies shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. 
  • Prohibitions relating to texting while driving and using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. 
  • A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while driving under this emergency declaration must report any recordable crash within five business days, by phone or in writing to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The carrier must report the time, date, location, vehicle ID and a brief description of the crash. 
  • The direct assistance relief is terminated when a driver or CMV is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not related to emergency relief efforts of COVID-19. Or, when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or CMV to another location to begin operations in commerce. 
  • This waiver does not apply to medical examiner’s certificates issued initially for less than 90 days. 
  • Lastly, FMCSA reserves the right to revoke this waiver for driver’s involvement in crashes, motor carrier’s failure to report accidents and driver’s failure to comply with the restriction of this waiver. 

The driver doesn’t have to carry the Declaration in the vehicle with them while driving. However, it is recommended that the drivers and carriers keep a copy of the Declaration, which is easily accessible. It must also be noted that the FMCSA Emergency Declaration does not provide relief from Canadian HOS regulations. When a driver is moving from emergency support efforts to normal operations, a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and regular operation equalling to 14 hours. 

Restrictions and conditions of the regulatory waiver

This waiver covers states, CDL holders, CLP holders and interstate non-CDL CMV drivers for the period starting at 12:00 am on October 1, 2020, through 11:59 pm on December 31, 2020.

  • The waiver does not apply to a CDL or CLP holder if the driver’s license or permit has expired before March 1, 2020
  • The waiver becomes void to a non-domiciled CLP or CDL holder if the non-domiciled driver’s legal presence is invalid.
  • This waiver is not eligible for a CDL or CLP holder if the driver’s privileges have been suspended or withdrawn for traffic offences. 
  • Drivers who are claiming relief from this waiver must have proof of a valid medical certificate and any required medical variance following the periods of eligibility set forth above. They should also carry a xerox of their expired medical certificates. 
  • New drivers who have never obtained medical certification cannot cover under this waiver. This is also applicable for drivers who cannot produce evidence of a prior medical accreditation under the periods of eligibility mentioned above.
  • FMCSA’s regulatory waiver does not apply to medical examiner’s certificates that are originally issued for less than 90 days. 

As a fleet owner or manager, it is crucial to follow the FMCSA rules and regulations that continue to change to adapt to the pandemic situation. As a result, the agency encourages drivers to obtain their renewed licenses and medical certificates and also encourages SDLAs to bring their operations back to normal as soon as practicable, in respect with all applicable Federal, State and Local laws and guidance before December 31, 2020. 

Matrack in response to the FMCSA extension

Concerning the FMCSA regulation and extension, Matrack as a fleet company follows all the requirements, violation warnings, laws and rules. “Constant changes in the FMCSA regulations are bound to be part of the pandemic situation. We promise to keep our customers updated” says Cam Smith, VP at Matrack. You can also check the latest updates on asset and fleet tracking news at Matrack. The Matrack GPS trackers are one among those best-in-class trackers available for tracking your valuable assets and fleet. 

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