Emergency COVID-19 hours of service waiver extended through February

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021:

COVID-19 HOS waiver extended for certain haulers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is extending the COVID-19 emergency declaration, which waives Part 395.3 (maximum driving time) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for carriers providing emergency relief related to the pandemic. The declaration, which was set to expire Tuesday, Nov. 30, will now be effective through Feb. 28, 2022. 

The extension continues to retain new features instituted with the last extension that began in September, including the narrowed regulatory range of the exemption -- which notably does not include the requirement to log time or use an ELD, if applicable. The September changes also included a new request for carriers to report their use of the exemption within 5 days after the end of each month. The move to add that requirement followed the agency's request in late summer to study the extent of the exemption's use around trucking. The reporting page asks for carriers' USDOT number; the number of trips made by commercial vehicles under the COVID Declaration; the type of goods transported; and for multiple goods transported, an indication of which commodity was transported the most.

Carriers are able to report by accessing their portal accounts via Portal.FMCSA.DOT.gov/login. After logging in, carriers will need to access "Emergency Declaration Reporting" under the "Available FMCSA Systems" section of the page.

The agency said it decided to extend the declaration because, “although the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline in the U.S. following widespread introduction of vaccinations, persistent issues arising out of COVID-19 continue to affect the U.S., including impacts on supply chains and the need to ensure capacity to respond to variants and potential rises in infections. Therefore, a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains."

The hours waiver applies to drivers and carriers providing direct assistance, which means transportation and other relief services related to the immediate restoration of essential services (such as medical care) or essential supplies related to COVID-19 during the emergency.

The waiver continues to be limited to the transportation of:

  • 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
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
  • Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol

Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency)

Direct assistance does not include non-emergency transportation of qualifying commodities or routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.  To be eligible for the exemption, the transportation must be both of qualifying commodities and related to the immediate restoration of those essential supplies. Read the full exemption language via this link. 

Florida fleets offering free tuition to trucking school

FleetForce Truck Driving School and Florida Trucking Association (FTA) announced Nov. 29 a joint initiative to put more truck drivers on the road. 

A group of commercial trucking companies that are FTA members are offering fully-paid tuition at FleetForce for those looking to obtain a commercial driver’s license and begin a career as a truck driver. In addition to covering the tuition costs, these companies have jobs waiting once students obtain their CDL and, in some cases, are offering sign-on bonuses and paying students while they attend training.

“Trucking is a central part of growing and maintaining a strong economy, but it’s also a life-changing career opportunity for so many people,” said Tra Williams, president and CEO of FleetForce. “This new program is offering free training and guaranteed employment for applicants who meet the qualifications. There’s excellent earning potential in this this industry right now, and there’s a dire need for entry-level drivers. It’s a win-win.”

“FTA is always looking for creative solutions to solve industry challenges,” said Dr. Alix Miller, president and CEO of Florida Trucking Association. “The driver shortage limits capacity for trucking companies, and directly impacts the economy and Floridians’ daily lives. This collaboration matches some of the most well-respected companies in the state with well-trained drivers, eager to get on the road.”

As part of this program, FleetForce will conduct the pre-hire screening to ensure applicants meet the qualifications and criteria necessary to enter the training and obtain employment.