Truck drivers are set to accelerate their efforts to restock store shelves and hospital supply closets in the midst of shortages triggered by the coronavirus pandemic after federal regulators relaxed Hours of Service (HOS) caps on Friday.
The rule change followed President Trump’s move to declare a national state of emergency over the rapid spread of the deadly Covid-19 disease, prompting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to lift its usual limit on the number of hours each driver can work in a single day. The change is effective until the end of the emergency or April 12, 2020, whichever comes sooner.
While federal agencies have deployed several economic stimulus plans in recent days to stave off a potential economic recession, the rule change does not apply to “routine commercial deliveries” or even mixed loads of commercial and emergency items.
Rather, FMCSA said truckers can now log extra hours only if they are “providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts” for Covid-19, such as hauling:
Transportation industry groups applauding the change include the Small Business in Transportation Coalition and the The Nevada Trucking Association. However, another group asked the Trump Administration to extend the loosened HOS rules to a broader range of freight, according to Arlington, Virginia-based Consumer Brands Association, which represents consumer packaged goods (CPG) providers.
“While the current HOS relief only applies to drivers delivering direct aid and emergency response equipment, we believe the HOS restrictions should be modified for truck drivers delivering essential consumer products as well,” Tom Madrecki, vice president, supply chain and logistics, for the Consumer Brands Association, said in a release. “As we work together to fight the coronavirus, ensuring Americans have access to cleaning supplies, personal care items, over-the-counter medicines, and staple food and beverage products is essential.”
USDOT has issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. #COVID?19 Learn more at https://t.co/qb7Iaeert3— FMCSA (@FMCSA) March 14, 2020