The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the US. Existing cases and the rise of variants of the virus are increasing the pressure on the trucking industry to supply essential goods and medical supplies.
This situation, in line with the nationally declared ‘State of Emergency’, has led to the FMCSA to allow certain waivers of regulations to relieve the situation. These temporary adjustments have been renewed several times throughout the pandemic and have again been extended until the end of November 2021.
Existing Driver Regulations
In recent years, there have been intense efforts within the trucking industry and the governing authorities to improve health and safety standards for drivers. This has been part of endeavors to gain recruits to a seriously understaffed workforce.
New regulations included improved training and qualifications and limits on driving hours. There are also a number of other safety and security rules to encourage new driver applications. These regulations remain in place. However, certain modifications have been authorized for relief during Covid-19 conditions.
National rules regarding social distancing and the number of people in isolation or a medical facility have meant that licensing applications have been delayed or suspended. Therefore, the FMCSA has waived certain time limits and other rules to keep trucking and the flow of essential goods constant during this exceptional time.
Who Are Eligible?
These specific amendments are allowed for those in the industry providing essential services during the pandemic. They are:
- All medical supplies relating to the administration of vaccines against Covid-19.
- Medical supplies related to testing, evaluating and treating the Covid virus.
- Sanitary equipment and supplies to prevent the spread of the virus. These include masks, gloves, disinfectants, soaps and hand sanitizers.
- Emergency restocking of stores and provisions in distribution centers of essential home supplies.
- Essential farm equipment, livestock and animal feed.
- Gasoline, diesel, ethyl alcohol and jet fuel.
- Supplies such as building equipment and other relief to those displaced by the pandemic.
Drivers making regular commercial deliveries or of mixed goods with minimal emergency supplies are not exempted under the relief regulations. Pre-existing regulations relating to speed limits, reports, and crash documentation. Other driving safety rules also remain in place and no driver is exempted from these.
Individual State Directives
The FMCSA emergency regulations make it clear that certain waivers will be permitted but are discretionary within each individual US state. Further, the directive indicates that the temporary rules could be dismissed if the national emergency situation changes. The current regulatory relief will end or be extended again after November 30th, 2021.
The waivers and modifications refer to relief from regulations are as follows.
- Extension of time limits to renew an existing Commercial Driving License (CDL) due for renewal on/after March 1st.
Extension of the validity of an existing Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) due for renewal on/after March 1st.
- Discretion over the renewal of CLP licenses requiring learners to retake the general and endorsement tests after the original one-year maximum application time limit rule.
- Waiving of the need for CLP holders to wait 14 days before taking the CDL skills test. This is to facilitate the demand for truckers delivering emergency supplies to get on the road as soon as they are qualified to do so.
- Discretionary rule concerning the need for CDL and CLP and non-CDL drivers to have a medical examination and certification. The rules are waived if drivers have been issued valid 90-day medical papers expiring on or after June 1st, 2021.
- Temporary removal of requirement to supply the State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLA) with original or copies of new medical examination/certification papers. This is provided there is proof of existing certification up to or beyond June 1st, 2021.
- Temporary removal of requirement for the SDLA to alter the driver’s certification to non-certified status providing previous medical papers are valid.
Pertaining to regulation relief of the above, the need for the SDLA to initiate a downgrade for CDL and CLP drivers. This is providing the required certification was in order up to and beyond June 1, 2021.
The FMCSA also recognizes the similar validity of rules and regulatory relief issued by Canadian and Mexican authorities.
There follows a slew of more detailed information but basically, the relief relates to service hours and licensing.