The Department of Transportation (DOT) has suspended some regulations requiring drivers to take off-road breaks while making deliveries.
Usually, drivers are only permitted to work 14 hour days, and can spend only 11 of those actually driving. But those “hours of service” regulations no longer apply to drivers transporting full loads of emergency supplies, like medical equipment related to Covid-19, masks and gloves, groceries, fuel, and equipment for building temporary housing or quarantine spaces.
Drivers still have to take a minimum 10-hour break after they’ve dropped off their emergency loads, and to stop driving if they feel drowsy at any point.
Under normal circumstances, cargo-carrying drivers are permitted to be on the clock for 14 hours a day, which includes 11 hours of driving and several mandated breaks. They can also only be on-duty for 70 hours over a consecutive eight-day period before they are required to rest for 34 hours. Drivers carrying passengers can drive only 10 hours each day.
The FMCSA’s emergency waiver permits drivers to bypass these hours restrictions so long as they are exclusively carrying essential supplies like medicine, masks, food needed for “emergency restocking,” and government or medical personal.
“Routine” commercial deliveries are still subject to standard HOS rules, as are drivers carrying mixed loads of essential and non-essential goods.
Some states have closed DMVs without granting exemptions or extensions for expiring driver’s licenses, leaving some commercial drivers with expired licenses wondering whether they are allowed to be on the road or not.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) is on the lookout for what they call “onerous” restrictions on drivers—for example, demanding to take a driver’s temperature before they drop off a load at a facility, or quizzing them on where they have traveled in the last few days, or refusing to allow drivers to use bathrooms.
Peggy Dorf, an analyst with the freight marketplace DAT Solutions, wrote this week on the company’s blog, “Emergency medical supplies like masks, ventilators, and soap need to be transported from manufacturers to medical centers, and the raw materials that help manufacturers build those things—paper, plastic, alcohol—need to get to the factory. Grocery shelves must be restocked, and quickly, while customers like schools no longer need their regular shipments. Americans everywhere cry out for more toilet paper.”