U.S. waives hours of service rules for emergency food transport
The U.S. has issued an emergency declaration that impacts hours of service rules regulating the trucking industry, which will apply to six areas including food for emergency restocking of stores.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says it aims to provide regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The declaration affects commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
- Food for emergency restocking of stores.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
Under non-emergency rules, drivers can work a 14-hour day, 11 hours of which can be drive time under most circumstances. Drivers are required to rest for 10 consecutive hours in order to rest their daily clocks, with a few exceptions.
The FMCSA said that to ensure continue safety on the nation’s roadways, the emergency declaration stipulates that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
The exemption specifically excludes "routine commercial deliveries".
Jason Craig, director of government affairs at leading logistics company C.H. Robinson, said in a blog post that while it is common for FMCSA to issue these declarations for loads involved with disaster response, this declaration may be the "broadest" it has ever issued.
He advised companies to work with their supply chain partners on developing a standard operating procedure to designate specific loads that should be covered under this criterion if needed.
"There may be some confusion as word of this declaration spreads quickly. Electronic Logging Device’s (ELD) should already be capable of handling emergency declaration scenarios, but many drivers and companies may not be familiar with how to use these features," he said.
He also emphasized that solely because a driver may be exempt from the hours of service rules when loading or unloading, it doesn't mean the customer is exempt from paying for the driver’s services.
Meanwhile, the National Grocers Association president and CEO Greg Ferrara praised the U.S. Administration for issuing the declaration.
“While local, independent grocers are currently experiencing an unprecedented demand in store traffic and for product and goods, we continue to work closely with the President and our federal, state and local officials nationwide to ensure the resilience of both the food supply chain and our local economies," he said.
“Our industry has faced emergencies before from hurricanes to earthquakes, and fires to floods. Grocers are experienced and prepared to continue serving their communities and employees as our members do each and every day.
"Our nation’s food supply and supply chain are very strong, well stocked and will continue to work at the highest capacity to supply stores.”