COVID-related hours of service, CLP waivers extended

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Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Sept. 5, 2022:

COVID-related hours exemption extended

Even as COVID-related restrictions in everyday life have continued toward an ever-greater sense of normalcy these last three months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week extended its regs waiver related to the COVID national emergency declaration.

That waiver, as is detailed in an alert at the FMCSA's COVID information page, exempts a subset of truck drivers from maximum-drive-time limits in the hours of service (49 Code of Federal Regulations 395.3). 

This latest waiver took effect beginning Sept. 1, and is only active through October 15, a shorter time period than past 90-day waivers, potentially signaling an end to the now nearly 2.5 years-running, routinely modified and updated exemption.

The agency flagged "persistent issues arising out of COVID-19" that continued to "affect the U.S. including impacts on supply chains," as reasons for further extension of this waiver. The agency's own data collection effort about the waiver's use, launched with the September renewal of the waiver in 2021, continues to show "substantial ongoing use of the regulatory relief," too, FMCSA added. 

This latest extension of the waiver provides relief for freight operations providing "direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19." It's limited to a list of the same commodities that were exempted with the last waiver, namely: 

  • 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, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), jet fuel, ethyl alcohol, and heating fuel including propane, natural gas, and heating oil   

"Direct assistance," FMCSA noted, doesn't include non-emergency transport of qualifying commodities or routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief.

To be eligible for the exemption, the haul must be a load of qualifying commodities and also pursuant of the "immediate restoration of those essential supplies," the full declaration signed by FMCSA's current acting administrator noted. 

Certain COVID-related CLP waivers extended three months

Despite only extending the COVID-related hours of service waiver 45 days, FMCSA has issued a three-month extension of a waiver from certain commercial learner’s permit (CLP) regulations.

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Since March 2020, FMCSA has granted waivers from the requirement that a CLP holder be accompanied by a CDL holder in the front seat of a commercial vehicle; from the restriction that limits a state administering a CDL skills test only to an out of state CDL applicant who has taken driver training in that state; and from the requirement that CLP holders are not eligible to take the CDL skills test in the first 14 days after initial issuance of the CLP.

FMCSA said extending the waiver through Nov. 30 will “continue the ability of intrastate and interstate CDL and CLP holders to transport goods and people and to provide flexibilities to State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to accelerate CDL testing.”

Under the terms of the waiver, a CLP holder can drive without an accompanying CDL holder present in the front seat of the vehicle, as long as the CDL holder is elsewhere in the cab. The CLP holder must also be in possession of evidence from the testing jurisdiction that he or she has passed the CDL driving skills test, and they have a valid non-CDL driver’s license, CLP and medical certificate.

Additionally, under the terms of the waiver, states can choose to administer a driving skills test to any out-of-state CDL applicant, regardless of where they received training.

Finally, states can choose to allow CLP holders to take the CDL skills test without waiting 14 days after initial issuance of the CLP, as long as the CLP holder has completed the applicable entry-level driver training requirements.

Top military rookie trucker award finalists named

After receiving entries from a record number of nominators, Fastport recently announced the 12 finalists for its “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award, which recognizes America’s top rookie military veteran driver.

Fastport has teamed up with Kenworth, the American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes Program to support the program. 

Under the recognition program, Kenworth will provide the top award for the seventh consecutive year. For the first time, that award is a Kenworth T680 Next Generation, equipped with a 76-inch sleeper and the complete Paccar Powertrain featuring the Paccar MX-13 engine, Paccar TX-12 automated transmission, and Paccar DX-40 tandem rear axles.

The 12 finalists for the award, along with their branch of service and current employer, are:

  • Sean Adams, U.S. Navy, McElroy Truck Lines
  • Jason Van Boxtel, U.S. Marines, Veriha Trucking
  • Alexander Brandt, U.S. Army, Hirschbach Motor Lines
  • Cale Jensen, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army, G. Dubbels Trucking
  • Ashley Leiva, U.S. Army, Draco Energy/Noemi Trucking
  • Paul Gouker, U.S. Army and National Guard, Stevens Transport
  • Dave Marihugh, U.S. Navy, Roehl Transport
  • Chris McDowell, U.S. Army and National Guard, Epes Transport
  • Joe Nyenatee, U.S. Army, Melton Truck Lines
  • Talon Rogers, U.S. Army, CRST 
  • Justin Silk, U.S. Army, Paschall Truck Lines
  • Michael D. Thomas, U.S. Marines, Prime Inc. 

Drivers were nominated by trucking companies that made a hiring commitment and pledge to hire veterans, members of the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS), or Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) member school.  

The top driver will be determined by an expert panel of judges.

The Top 12 will receive recognition for both their military and civilian accomplishments at the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Salute dinner on Sept. 22 in the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio. On Sept. 23, the finalists will tour the Kenworth Chillicothe manufacturing plant. The Top 3 announcement will follow at the nearby MHC RoadReady Center in Chillicothe. The final winner will be announced on Dec. 16 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C.