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FMCSA Issues Updated Emergency Declaration, Regulatory Relief Provided

On Friday, March 13, 2020, FMCSA issued an emergency declaration, temporarily suspending certain federal safety regulations for motor carriers and drivers providing vital supplies and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FMCSA’s emergency declaration is effective until the end of the emergency or until April 12, 2020, whichever is sooner.

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, FMCSA updated its original declaration based on industry input and feedback. The updated declaration continues to provide an exemption from hours of service (HOS) and other rules 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, 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 items in categories (1), (2) or (3)
  • Fuel
  • 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
  • Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response

Drivers and motor carriers who meet the requirements of the exemption do not need to abide by hours of service rules while providing direct assistance and should not calculate the time spent providing that assistance into their daily or weekly totals. Drivers may also return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or normal work reporting location without counting time towards hours of service limits. If a driver reports that he or she is in need of immediate rest, the motor carrier must allow the driver to obtain at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before returning to duty.

Drivers should, however, document time spent transporting routine commercial deliveries and transporting mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration. While drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts are not required to maintain specific documentation identifying a load as part of emergency relief, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance suggests that best practice is to ask the shipper to label the bill of lading accordingly.


How Trimble customers can utilize the exemption

At Trimble, we are ready to support our customers that are subject to this declaration. For those drivers who qualify for this exemption please direct them to use the Emergency Exception on their Trimble in-cab display, as outlined by US 49 CFR §390.5 or US §395.1 (b) (2). The Emergency Exception is set up on a per-day basis, so drivers who would like to use this exemption will need to do so daily until the declaration is no longer in effect.

For details on how to implement this exemption via a Trimble in-cab device, please refer to the ELD Driver Guides, both the Android version and WinCE version via our Support Center.

Trimble TMS customers, including those using our Innovative, TL2000, TMW.Suite, TMWSuite, Fuel Dispatch, and TruckMate products, may also be affected by this change in terms of data that is presented on their TMS screens. Depending on how your fleet has elected to manage exempt drivers, you should expect varying results in your TMS. These results may include accurate HOS data, including showing drivers with negative drive time left, unchanging HOS values showing in the system and/or blank HOS data on screen. These results will be in line with what is coming from your ELD provider, and will be affected by your choices there.

TMS customers have several options to manage this situation in their screens and system. Each comes with unique implications. We highly recommend researching the regulation and discussing options as a business before making any changes to your settings or product.

Also note that certain tools that rely on HOS data may be affected for exempt drivers. These tools include TruETA, Match Advice and Trip Alert. These three tools rely on the input of accurate HOS data to make optimized decisions and alerts. As exempt drivers may exceed their hours, not have HOS data provided by the ELD provider, or experience other similar situations, we do not recommend using these tools on drivers on the days they are driving under the emergency HOS exemption.

Have additional questions about this exemption or about our safety and compliance solutions? Contact us today to find out how Trimble can help you navigate the regulatory landscape to benefit your fleet and drivers.