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Law Alert: FMCSA Issues Federal Emergency Declaration and Limited Regulatory Reprieve for COVID-19 Relief Efforts

by Jerad T. Childress, Thomas  E. O'Donnell, Prasad Sharma, Brandon K. Wiseman, Timothy W. Wiseman

Mar 14, 2020

The FMCSA has issued an emergency declaration, temporarily suspending certain federal safety regulations, including hours-of-service rules, for motor carriers and drivers providing vital supplies and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FMCSA’s declaration, which is effective until the end of the emergency or April 12, 2020, whichever is sooner, comes on the heels of President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

The declaration provides a broad exemption from the requirements of Parts 390 through 399 of the federal safety regulations for commercial motor vehicle operations directly assisting emergency relief efforts, which includes transportation involving 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 for emergency restocking of stores;
  • Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  • Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  • Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.

Importantly, the exemption does not cover routine commercial deliveries or transportation of mixed loads that include essential supplies, equipment and persons, along with supplies, equipment and persons that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks. Further, the exemption ceases to apply upon the motor carrier’s termination of direct assistance to the relief effort, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. If a driver reports that he/she is in need of immediate rest, the motor carrier must still allow the driver to obtain at least 10 consecutive hours off duty (8 hours for passenger carriers) before returning to duty. 

To view the FMCSA’s press release and for additional details about the declaration, click here. If you have questions about the scope of the Declaration or its exemptions, contact Scopelitis attorneys Tim Wiseman, Brandon Wiseman, Prasad Sharma, Tom O’Donnell, or Jerad Childress.

To stay abreast of the latest news regarding COVID-19 and the transportation industry, please visit the Scopelitis COVID-19 Task Force resource page

If you have questions regarding COVID-19, please email


News from Scopelitis is intended as a report to our clients and friends on developments affecting the transportation industry. The published material does not constitute an exhaustive legal study and should not be regarded or relied upon as individual legal advice or opinion.

© Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C. 2020. All rights reserved. 

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