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For the first time since the rule’s inception in 1938, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has temporarily lifted their hours-of-service (HOS) law, which mandates how many hours a truck driver can work. This is an unprecedented move in an effort to battle the national COVID-19 pandemic, allowing supplies like medicine, food, and other supplies to keep moving across the country.

FMCSA Expands Hours-Of-Service Regulations for Coronavirus Relief Efforts

On March 13, the FMCSA issued an emergency declaration granting truckers immediate regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicles providing direct assistance to emergency relief efforts for the coronavirus pandemic. This includes hauling and delivering cargo meant for:

  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking
  • Fuel and gas
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to COVID-19
  • Persons designated by authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine
  • Persons necessary to provide medical or emergency services
  • Raw materials like paper, plastic, or alcohol required for the manufacture of essential items
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of transmission of COVID-19
  • Supplies and persons necessary for temporary housing or quarantine

This HOS expansion does not include routine commercial deliveries. It also does not exempt any driver from substance and alcohol use testing, commercial driver’s license requirements, hazardous material regulations, or applicable size and weight restrictions. However, some states are offering temporary weight provisions for trucks and tractor-trailers in order to get emergency supplies where they need to go in the quickest amount of time.

With these new, temporary relief efforts in place, one thing worth noting is that with hours-of-service regulations suspended, truck drivers are no longer required to take a break or rest after long hauls. The FMSCA declaration means that truckers transporting the above types of cargo are no longer prohibited from working more than 70 hours in an eight-day period, or from taking a 30-minute break every eight hours.

However, federal officials did add a protection: “If the driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location.”

This is understandable due to the emergency pandemic situation in which our country is involved, and we are thankful our supply chain is up and running. However, that makes it even more important that we all practice the utmost safety when it’s necessary to be out on our roads and highways. Find out more about truck accidents in Tennessee and the cases we handle.

The attorneys at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm are committed to protecting and keeping the citizens of Tennessee informed during these uncertain times. We remain in business and working for you, serving clients in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville. Call us today at 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form.  We fight for you.

For more information on monitoring the spread of the coronavirus on a global basis, you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization.

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