FMCSA Emergency Declaration During Covid

By: Daren Hansen

Publication: Transportation Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 08/14/2020

August 12 update on FMCSA Emergency Declaration: This article has been updated to include an extension and expansion of the FMCSA Emergency Declaration.

Federal, state, and local government agencies across the nation have issued an array of temporary waivers and restrictions in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Given the critical role that transportation can play during a pandemic, many of these waivers are meant to ease regulations on truck and bus companies.

 

Keeping track of all the waivers, exemptions, and restrictions can be a chore. Here’s a rundown of the key declarations that you should be aware of.

 

Note that emergency waivers often come with restrictions and conditions that must be followed. Use the links below to access full details. Carriers are advised to keep good records showing when and why any waivers were used.

 

“Stay at home” orders

Many states and cities issued some type of “safer at home” or “stay at home” order at the start of the pandemic. These orders generally included a list of transportation jobs that are considered “essential” during the pandemic, meaning they can continue to be performed. These orders generally do not exempt employees from safety regulations, however.

 

These local orders are often based on a list of essential workers developed by the Dept. of Homeland Security.

 

The FMCSA has issued its own guidance for local governments to follow when issuing quarantine orders for drivers and other employees found here.

 

A list of stay-at-home orders is available at: www.jjkeller.com/learn/pandemic-response

 

Safety regulation exemption (including hours of service)

The FMCSA is exempting certain drivers from most of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) — including hours of service, driver qualification, vehicle inspections, etc., but not CDL licensing or drug/alcohol testing — when providing direct assistance to emergency relief efforts. This includes transportation of livestock and livestock feed, medical supplies, disinfectants, and food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores. Drivers still may not operate while ill or fatigued and must follow certain other rules.

 

The FMCSA’s latest emergency declaration, issued August 11, can be found here.

 

The latest exemption is due to expire on September 14 or when the national emergency is terminated.

 

FAQs link to here and here .

 

 

Drug & alcohol testing

Both the DOT and FMCSA have issued guidance on how to conduct drug and alcohol testing during the pandemic, when clinics may be closed and drivers may be unwilling to report for testing.

 

DOT guidance

 

FMCSA guidance

 

On July 6 the FMCSA issued a notice allowing some enforcement discretion when it comes to enforcing random testing requirements.

 

See also: FMCSA adds flexibility to 2020 random testing

 

On June 5th the FMCSA issued a separate waiver specific to pre-employment drug testing, to allow motor carriers to bring drivers back from a furlough of up to 90 days without the need for a pre-employment test.

 

Finally, the DOT has also waived the requirement that substance abuse professionals (SAPs) conduct face-to-face evaluations of drivers, with certain restrictions, and has waived certain re-training requirements for SAPs, medical review officers, and test technicians.

 
Expiring CDLs, CLPs, and medical cards

Drivers who were unable to renew their drivers’ licenses or medical cards after March 1 have until September 30 to do so. Certain restrictions apply. See original waiver.

See extension

 

FMCSA enforcement policy.

 

 
Commercial learner’s permit (CLP) waiver

The FMCSA has issued a temporary waiver from certain CLP restrictions until June 30. On June 16, the waiver was extended to Sept. 30, 2020. In part, the waiver allows the person accompanying the CLP holder to ride somewhere other than the front seat, as long as the CLP holder has passed the CDL skills test. It also allows states to perform skills tests on out-of-state CDL applicants. Original waiver.Extension to Sept. 30

 

The FMCSA has also waived the requirements in 384.228(b)-(c), allowing third-party CDL test examiners previously authorized by the State to administer the CDL skills test to also administer the CDL knowledge test without completing a CDL knowledge test training course.

 
Annual inspections for intermodal equipment

A waiver issued on June 1, 2020, allows intermodal equipment providers and motor carriers to operate intermodal chassis with expired annual inspection decals, as long as the decal expired on or after March 31, 2020. The waiver does not allow unsafe chassis operations, and defects must still be reported to the equipment provider. The waiver expires on September 1, 2020.

 

Refer to the FMCSA waiver

 
Temporary operating authority

The FMCSA has waived application fees for Temporary Operating Authority during the emergency. Temporary authority is issued to help carriers seeking to provide direct assistance during an emergency, but that do not have the proper for-hire authority to do so.

 

 
Hand sanitizer transportation

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has provided temporary relief from certain Hazardous Materials Regulations for transporters of hand sanitizers and other alcohol-based products needed for the health emergency. See: 

 

On a humorous note, the enforcement community has decided that hand sanitizer is not an alcoholic beverage for purposes of the prohibition on the possession of alcohol in a commercial vehicle.

 

 
Hazmat endorsement and TWIC renewals

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is allowing states to extend hazardous material endorsements for up to 180 days if they were due to expire between March 1 and July 31. See here.

 

Similarly, the TSA is extending the expiration of TWIC cards for up to 180 days. See here.

 

See also these TSA FAQs.

 
Hazmat re-training

PHMSA will not take enforcement action against any hazmat employer who is unable to provide recurrent training as required in the Hazardous Materials Regulations. See here.

 
Size & weight limits

Some states have relaxed weight limits or waived overweight permit fees. Check with the state for details.

 
IFTA/IRP extensions

Information about waivers and extensions for the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and International Registration Plan (IRP) are available at www.irponline.org and www.iftach.org.

 
UCR filing deadline

Enforcement of the 2020 Unified Carrier Registration requirement was pushed back to July 1, 2020.

Thank you

Finally, from everyone at J. J. Keller & Associates, thank you to everyone in the commercial transportation industry who continues to deliver needed equipment, supplies, and personnel in this time of crisis.

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About the author
Daren Hansen - Transportation Safety Editor

Based on his expertise in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Daren is responsible for writing and editing content for safety-related products, publications, and services for the trucking industry,

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