Updated COVID-19 exemptions

By: Tom Bray

Publication: Transport Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 12/22/2020

Updated COVID-19 exemptions - December 2020

On December 1, 2020, the emergency declaration that created the COVID-19 exemptions was updated and extended until February 28, 2020. The situations under which drivers and carriers can use the exemptions created by the COVID-19 emergency declaration were updated as well. Drivers transporting vaccine and vaccine-related products were added into the declaration.

Under the current emergency declaration, a driver may use the exemptions if he or she is transporting the following materials in direct support of the emergency:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention 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.

The exemptions created by this emergency declaration are unchanged and include Parts 390 to 399. These exemptions allow:

  • Carriers to let their driver qualification files lapse,
  • Drivers to disregard the hours-of-service limits and logging requirements,
  • Drivers to operate vehicles that have defects, and
  • Drivers to operate vehicles that do not have a current annual inspection.

Two key points to remember about this exemption are that:

  • It applies only when the driver is providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19, as discussed above (see §390.5 for a definition of direct assistance); and
  • It does not allow the driver to drive in an unsafe manner, operate while ill or fatigued, operate a clearly unsafe vehicle, or violate the hand-held cell phone and texting prohibitions.

What about the other waivers and exemptions?

There are other pandemic-related waivers, exemptions, and guidance in place, as well. The ones that apply to most carriers and drivers include:

  • The enforcement waiver that allows drivers to continue to drive with an expired license, if conditions are met (in place until February 28, 2021);
  • The enforcement waiver allows a driver to operate with an expired medical card until February 28, 2021, PROVIDED:
    • The medical card expired on or after September 1, 2020 (drivers who had a medical card expiration date prior to that will need to have a valid medical card),
    • The most-recent medical card was issued for more than 90 days, and
    • The driver carries a copy of his or her expired medical certificate and any required variance.
  • The guidance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on missing random and follow-up drug and alcohol tests (this covers testing for calendar year 2020); and
  • The waiver allowing a driver with a commercial learner’s permit who has passed his or her CDL skills test to operate as part of a team with his or her trainer, rather than the trainer having to be in the right seat directly supervising and instructing the driver (in place until December 31, 2020).

Key to remember: Several COVID-related exemptions will be extended, modified, or eliminated in the coming months. Be sure to keep track of which guidance, exemptions, and waivers, are still in effect to keep your fleet and drivers in compliance.

About the author
Tom Bray - Transportation Editor

Tom has been with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. since 2005. He brought with him an extensive background that includes years of experience in DOT compliance, policy development, driver human resources, driver training, training program development, CDL testing, claims management, and accident and injury prevention.

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