The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expanded the hours of service (HOS) exemptions given to commercial drivers participating in emergency relief efforts on March 18. However, while FMCSA provided clear guidelines for exempt freight and cargo, truckers and fleets have many lingering questions.

To provide a rapid response, FMCSA put together answers to the most frequently asked questions:

Q1: Do mixed loads containing materials related to direct assistance covered by the emergency declaration as well as unrelated materials count for the HOS exemptions?

— In most cases, yes. However, drivers and fleets can’t add an insignificant amount of covered supplies in an attempt to flout HOS regulations.

Q2: Do drivers need to comply with the 34-hour restart regulation?

— No, exempt drivers don’t have to meet the requirements of the 34-hour restart if they are delivering freight that qualifies for the exemption. However, when drivers complete their exempt deliveries, they are required to take 10 hours off duty for cargo or eight hours for transporting passengers.

Q3: How do exempt hours affect the 60/70-hour rule?

— When providing direct assistance, those hours do not count toward the 60/70-hour rule. However, any driving hours not related to emergency relief support do.

Q4: Are drivers required to take a 30-minute break?

— During declared emergencies, none of the HOS regulations apply to hours worked providing direct assistance with emergency relief.

Q5: Are ELDs or paper logs required?

— No, drivers do not need to record their hours in an ELD or logbook. However, drivers should make a note that they were providing disaster relief services to avoid any confusion in the future during inspections.

Q6: How should drivers notate their exempt miles driven in their ELDs?

— FMCSA provided three options for recording the exempt hours:

– Option 1: Drive under “authorized personal use” mode. This will record the hours as off-duty. Drivers will need to make a notation.
– Option 2: Use the ELD as they normally would but include a notation that they performed those hours while providing emergency relief services.
– Option 3: Turn the ELD off. The carrier would then need to account for the unassigned miles in line with HOS regulations.

Q7: What happens if a driver performs a delivery covered by the exemption but their backhaul does not contain exempt items?

— Upon completing exempt deliveries, drivers are required to take 10 consecutive hours off duty for freight and eight for transporting personnel. Any driving not directly related to disaster relief doesn’t qualify for the exemption.

Q8: What documentation do drivers need to have to prove their freight is exempt?

— FMCSA is not requiring drivers to provide documentation. However, retaining the bill of lading for exempt deliveries can verify the hours for future inspections. Some states are also requiring documentation for intrastate deliveries. Drivers should retain a copy of their state’s declaration in those instances.

Q9: Do services like waste removal (both household and medical) or transporting livestock qualify?

— The exemptions cover waste removal as “supplies or equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19.” Livestock also qualifies, as they are an “immediate precursor raw material” for food to restock grocery stores.

FMCSA is working closely with states to ensure drivers have safe parking and facilities along their routes. To learn more about improving driver safety, contact the experts at DriverCheck.