FMCSA extends COVID-19 waivers through new year

By: Ann Potratz

Publication: Transportation Safety Training Advisor

Date Posted: 11/17/2020

FMCSA extends COVID-19 waivers through December 31, 2020

Newly updated waivers and enforcement policies from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mean some drivers will continue to be exempt from certain requirements through the end of the year.

Hours-of-service extension

An emergency exemption for drivers offering direct assistance to COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts has been extended through December 31, 2020.

The exemption was first issued on March 13, 2020, and has been revised and extended multiple times throughout the year. An enforcement notice posted on September 11th extends the emergency exemption through the rest of the calendar year.

The revised exemption is limited to the transportation of:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants; and
  • Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.

Under the emergency declaration, eligible motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreak are not required to comply with Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This includes rules covering hours of service, vehicle inspections, and driver qualification, among others.

Driver’s license and medical qualifications extensions

In addition to hours-of-service exemptions, the FMCSA extended waivers regarding licensing and medical qualification. Many commercial drivers continue to struggle with renewing their licenses or providing proof of medical certification to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) due limited operations. In addition, drivers may still experience difficulties in scheduling appointments with certified medical examiners due to limited operations or backlogs.

The driver’s license waiver is now extended until December 30, 2020:

  • The general licensing requirements in §391.11(b)(5). A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver (i.e., CLP, CDL, or non-CDL license holder) or motor carrier that allows a driver to operate a CMV during a period in which the driver’s operator license has expired is not in violation, providing:
    • The driver’s license was valid on February 29, 2020, and expired on or after March 1, 2020; and
    • The driver is otherwise qualified to drive under §391.11.
  • The maximum period of CDL or CLP validity for licenses due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020.
  • The requirement that CLP holders wait 14 days to take the CDL skills test.

In addition to licensing requirements, FMCSA revised the dates of eligibility to waive some medical qualification requirements.

For drivers whose medical certification (issued for at least 90 days) expired:

  • On or after March 1, 2020, but before June 1, 2020, the need to renew medical certification is waived until October 31, 2020.
  • On or after June 1, 2020, the need to renew medical certification is waived until December 31, 2020.

The waiver does not apply if the driver has developed a disqualifying condition since his or her last medical certification.

The SDLA process of changing a CDL or CLP driver’s medical status to “not certified” and initiating a license downgrade upon the expiration of medical certification has also been waived. Drivers eligible for the waiver are not required to provide an updated medical certificate to the SDLA until they are required to obtain a new medical certificate based on the timeline above.

FMCSA does not anticipate waiving the medical certification requirements beyond October 31, 2020, for drivers whose medical certification or variance expired before June 1, 2020.

Other updated waivers

The FMCSA has also extended waivers that:

  • Allow the person accompanying a CLP holder to ride somewhere other than the front seat, as long as the CLP holder has passed the CDL skills test;
  • Allow states to perform skills tests on out-of-state CDL applicants; and
  • Allow certain third-party CDL test examiners to administer the CDL knowledge test without completing a CDL knowledge test training course.
Notification of FMCSA crashes

Motor carriers must notify FMCSA within five business days of an accident (as defined in §390.5) involving a driver operating under the terms of either waiver. Notification must contain the data elements prescribed in the waiver and sent via email to the agency.

About the author
Ann Potratz - Human Resources Editor

Ann is an editor on the Human Resources Publishing Team, she specializes in employment law issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment, background checks, terminations, and security.

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