Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration exempted some truck drivers from hours-of-service regulations (HOS) for the first time in 82 years. It determined that truck drivers are exempt from HOS rules if they were operating “in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks.” These supplies include medical equipment, hand sanitizer, and other good that communities were running out of nationwide. For details regarding who is exempt from HOS rules, read our blog about the subject here.
What Do HOS Exemptions Mean for Truckers?
Truckers who find themselves exempt from HOS rules might find themselves operating in new territory. Without HOS rules, they’ll have the ability to function differently than they are used to. While exemptions occasionally happen for hurricanes and other natural disasters, the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 outbreak means that many drivers will find themselves free from HOS rules for the first time.
Exemptions for truck drivers providing emergency COVID-19 support include the following:
- Drivers are no longer required to take a 30-minute break.
- Hours worked while providing emergency relief do not apply to the 60/70-hour rule.
- Drivers are not required to examine the 34-hour restart period after providing emergency assistance.
- Drivers are not required to use an electronic logging device (ELD) or paper logbook.
What If a Backhaul Is Not Related to Emergency Relief?
There are some situations that will find drivers providing emergency relief in one direction while not providing it for a backhaul. Once a driver completes their emergency delivery, they must observe all HOS rules. In other words, a driver still needs to take 10 consecutive hours off duty before doing any other driving unrelated to delivering supplied unrelated to the emergency.
What If A Truck Has an Electronic Logging Device (ELD)?
If a truck has an ELD, they can activate its “authorized personal use” function, leave it on and annotate the record to account for emergency hours, or turn off the ELD completely. If a driver turns of their ELD, they should alert their carrier who will be able to account for the unassigned miles.
HOS Rule Exemptions Don’t Excuse Unsafe Driving
There are up to 6,000 fatal truck accidents each year in the United States, and many of them are caused by preventable problems such as driver fatigue. Since 1938, HOS rules have helped keep American roads safer by ensuring that truck operators don’t overwork their drivers to try and make as much as possible. Truckers are a pillar of the nation’s economy, and their work is crucial to providing the supplies we need during the COVID-19 crisis. However, HOS rule exemptions don’t excuse unsafe driving. Operators must ensure that drivers are not overworked, and drivers must ensure that they’re receiving the rest needed to protect others on the road.