In response to the coronavirus crisis, the Trump Administration has suspended hours-of-service (HOS) laws at the federal level in order to facilitate the transport of medical supplies and essential consumer goods. For the first time since they went into effect in 1938, HOS rules will no longer limit the amount of time a driver can be on the road.
Beginning on March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that drivers involved in helping to carry masks, hand sanitizer, and other medical supplies will temporarily not have to follow rules which limit drivers to eleven hours on the road.
An updated declaration was issued on March 19 allowing for relaxed regulations for carriers involved with the following:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment 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.
- Immediate precursor raw materials—such as paper, plastic or alcohol—that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items.
- Equipment, supplies, and persons are necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine.
The new rules give drivers the flexibility to drive as long as it is needed to deliver important freight in a timely manner. After completing the delivery, however, drivers must receive ten hours of rest before getting back on the road.
Drivers carrying necessary personnel to provide medical or emergency services will also be able to take advantage of the new rules. These could include people who are necessary to set up and coordinate temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities for those infected by the virus.