FMCSA extends COVID-19 hours of service waiver a shorter-than-usual 45 days

Updated Sep 1, 2022

Even as COVID-related restrictions in everyday life have continued to modulate toward an ever-greater sense of normalcy these last three months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today extended its regs waiver related to the COVID national emergency declaration. That waiver, as is detailed in a new alert at the FMCSA's COVID information page, exempts a subset of truckers from maximum-drive-time limits in the hours of service (49 Code of Federal Regulations 395.3). 

This latest waiver will be active beginning September 1, 2022, only 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.

Asked about the waiver's timeline and potential significance in the reduction from the usual 90-day extension, FMCSA Public Affairs lead Martha Threatt noted that the regulatory waivers in place "are being evaluated on a case by case basis."  

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. 

Overdrive readers earlier this summer reported as much themselves.   

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   
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"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. 

As previously reported, in addition to FMCSA's own monitoring of waiver use by carriers, the independent data collection effort spearheaded by the Trucker Nation grassroots driver-led group continues. Read more about that effort via this link.   

[Related: Poking at the hours of service: Has 'self-regulation' equated to safety?