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FMCSA extends COVID-19 emergency exemption and waivers

New deadline is February 28, 2022

Posted November 29, 2021

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has once again extended some emergency waivers and exemptions enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency’s Emergency Declaration as well as its licensing and medical-card waivers were due to expire on November 30, 2021. Due to a rise in infections and hospitalizations around the country and because supply chain disruptions continue to impact the entire U.S., the agency is again extending the exemption and waivers, this time until February 28, 2022.

Emergency declaration

The emergency exemption provides hours-of-service relief to qualifying motor carriers supporting pandemic relief efforts. The emergency exemption has been in place since March 2020. The exemption applies to the transportation of a limited list of commodities, including:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical and sanitation supplies, vaccines, and related products and equipment for the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, and for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19;
  • Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  • Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol; and
  • Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency).

The latest extension continues to offer relief from the hours-of-service limits in 49 CFR 395.3. This means eligible drivers are not required to have a minimum amount of rest and may drive after the normal 11-hour driving limit, 14-hour duty limit, and/or 60/70-hour weekly limit. They must be in compliance, however, with all other federal safety requirements related to driver qualification, vehicle inspections and maintenance, drug and alcohol testing, licensing, cargo securement, etc. They also must log their time as they normally would, whether using paper logs, electronic logs, or short-haul time records.

Reporting requirement remains

Carriers must continue to report their usage of the emergency exemption to the FMCSA. Specifically, motor carriers that use the exemption must log in to their FMCSA Portal account within five days after the end of each month to report their use of the exemption. Carriers are to access the “Emergency Declaration Reporting” tool under the “Available FMCSA Systems” section on the Portal website.

Licensing waiver

Drivers having trouble updating their commercial licenses due to the pandemic have more time to renew their credentials. Under the licensing waiver, states have the option to extend the validity of CDLs and CLPs that expired on or after March 1, 2020, until February 28, 2022. The licensing waiver is not binding on the states, so drivers should verify that their state is honoring it.

Medical-card waiver

Under the extended medical-card waiver, a driver can qualify for an extension on an expiring medical certificate if:

  • His or her existing medical card expired on or after September 1, 2021;
  • The existing medical card was issued for at least 90 days;
  • The driver has not been diagnosed with a disqualifying medical condition since the previous medical exam; and
  • The driver carries a copy of his or her expired medical certificate and any required variance.

Reporting crashes

If a driver takes advantage of the licensing or medical-card waiver and is involved in a DOT-recordable crash, the motor carrier must notify the FMCSA by email within five days.

The latest exemption declaration and waivers go into effect at 12:00 A.M. (ET), December 1, 2021, and will remain in effect until 11:59 P.M. (ET), February 28, 2022, unless modified or revoked sooner.

This article was written by Daren Hansen of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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