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It’s official: FMCSA waives HOS nationwide for COVID 19-related movement

In what it says is a first, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a 50-state waiver to the Hours of Service Rule for commercial vehicle drivers transporting goods related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The order was issued late Friday evening and had been foretold earlier in the day, on the back of numerous state waivers for intrastate transportation. It will last until the end of the day on April 12 or until the end of the emergency declared Friday by President Trump, whichever is sooner. 

FMCSA’s order is sweeping. And while there are numerous freight movements that wouldn’t fall under it, there are plenty that will. 

Possibly the most important waiver that will affect truckload carriers will be the one that impacts equipment and supplies of food for the emergency restocking of stores. State trucking association authorities contacted by FreightWaves on Friday all commented that the strain on the trucking system created by the enormous need to restock stores stripped bare by shoppers laying in vast quantities of supplies was enormous. A widely distributed picture posted on Instagram on Monday showed an enormous line of trucks outside a Pennsylvania Procter & Gamble plant that makes toilet paper; that situation presumably only got worse as the week went on.

The order specifies the waiver applies to equipment and supplies of food for the “emergency restocking of stores.”

The surge in demand for trucking can best be seen in the rise in SONAR’S Outbound Tender Volume Index, which has rocketed over the past few weeks even as economic activity in the U.S. slows due to the COVID-19 scare.

Other exemptions to HOS will cover the following, according to FMCSA:

–Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.

–Three types of “persons”: those “necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19”; those “designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes”; and “personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.”

Although there is no limit on the hours of service driving the truck, the FMCSA order does say that when a driver has completed a delivery, he or she must receive 10 hours of off duty if delivering goods and eight hours if transporting passengers.

One other provision: if a driver has completed COVID-19 relief work, but then is returning empty to his or her base, they can do so without violating federal rules. 

The exemption is aimed specifically at the Hours of Service rule that can be found in parts 390 through 399 of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 


  1. Steve

    Fuck them so us that haul product that makes the product that holds the product that qualifies dont get that exclusion.36 yrs and an impeccable record and this is what you get i say let them do without.i feel like a caged animal in my own country.lets let the bad drivers do what they want cause cause safety dont matter but its ok for to kill people to save people

  2. don

    ask the shipper .if it’s like the fema loads they will give you a paper that will show you are exempt from hos rules from start date to end date while hauling for covid-19 products through what states to run. That would be my guess, but check first.

  3. Ron

    How can we know what loads are ok to go ? I have a load of paper towels. Is this a qualifying item ? The list isn’t very detailed. If we are to know if our load is included we need a better list. Thanks

    1. Steve Moats

      I thought it was very clear, if you are restocking stores, it applies to you. We do road maintenance so it would not apply unless we are working to keep roads open to hospitals or quarantine camps.

  4. Steven

    So we are safe to drive as we please now?
    They play us every time when a state or this nation is in crisis.
    Brokers are abusing us as much as they please since the ELD is mandated,because they know that actually we can’t run anymore for the better paid load due to the limited driving time.
    Now they pack multiple cheap loads together,so they can enhance even a better paying check for themselves,claiming that actually the eliminated empty miles.
    So they eliminate empty miles but they did eliminate the free traveled miles?
    And FMCSA knows this fact first hand but they choose to play the safety card.
    Now the safety card doesn’t count anymore since they get all those goodies in stores for their family and at the regular price for them but at special cost to us….since we pull freight so cheap due to the stupid regulations.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.