DOT Relaxes HOS Truck Regulations for COVID-19 Emergency Deliveries

26 Mar 2020

In an unprecedented response to the national emergency declaration made by President Trump, the U.S. Department of Transportation is relaxing the hours-of-service regulations for drivers transporting emergency supplies to relieve pressure on hospitals and retailers.

The hours-of-service rules have been in place for 82 years. During that time, they have never been suspended on the federal level, though there have been instances, in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters, for instance, when states have temporarily suspended those regulations.

Among specific items falling under the relief requirements are:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for diagnosing and treating COVID-19.
  • Supplies and equipment designed to improve community safety, such as hand sanitizer, faces masks, gloves, soaps, and disinfectants.
  • Food supplies for restocking depleted store shelves.
  • Equipment and supplies necessary to manage temporary housing and quarantine facilities for COVID-19.
  • Medical services personnel and equipment.

The hours-of-service regulations are important tools for ensuring that truck drivers, who are responsible for moving nearly 70 percent of consumer goods in the U.S. are refreshed and able to move safely about the roads.

While the hours-of-service requirements have been temporarily suspended, the emergency declaration requires drivers to spend 10 hours off-duty when their cargo is property, such as medical supplies, food, and other goods and eight hours off-duty when they are tasked with transporting people; as soon as they make their deliveries.

While this is an unprecedented move, the situation is also unprecedented, as is the need to quickly move medical supplies and personnel across large distances as needs arise. This temporary declaration makes that possible, not only for the treatment of COVID-19, but also to ensure that people have access to food and personal medical supplies amidst wide-spread panic buying, making it easy for local agencies to manage the pandemic.

Jim Mullen, acting administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, FMCSA, said “This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently.” He went on to say, “FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

Ultimately, by relaxing the regulations, temporarily, the government is giving drivers across the country the opportunity to help relocate critical supplies to the areas where they are needed most.

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