There seems to be confusion, for some, in relation to what freight is considered part of the relief efforts in response to the Nationwide Emergency Declaration and exemption of Hours-of-Service regulations and what is not.
One trucker trade group, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition recently posted a comment to members of their associated Facebook group, Trucker Lives Matter, explaining their take on the that simply read “State of Emergency, Unplug ELD.” Now, I personally thought this was a call to those hauling relief freight to unplug as they are exempted from keeping with HOS regulations with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Emergency Declaration issued late Friday, March 13th, 2020, covered first here.
I read into the comments a bit more to see a question from a member of the Facebook group asking whether the State of Emergency applies only to truckers who are hauling food. The original poster commented that the exception was for “everyone.” I decided to dive in and ask for clarification from the original poster and he replied that if the Emergency Declaration does not apply to carriers as they are not hauling as part of the relief effort and are forced to follow current HOS regulations, his advise, “don’t comply.”
I assumed that somewhere, somehow, some wires had gotten crossed, afterall, I was talking to one of the leadership members of a trucking trade group which boasts 15,000 members. So I asked for clarification if he was in fact advising drivers to “not comply” with current HOS regulations if they were not participating in relief efforts, and otherwise exempt. He replied he would advise a member “to follow all laws, but who is making the decision to decide what’s relief what’s not the whole country is in a state of emergency by the President not individual states so who determines what’s needed what’s not?”
The SBTC released a statement attempting to clarify the issue ““Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, except as restricted herein. Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as food, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the emergency.”
According to the declaration which can be found in its entirety here, the HOS suspension only applies to carriers hauling any of the following products in direct assistance of the recovery efforts:
(1) medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
(2) 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;
(3) food for emergency restocking of stores;
(4) equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
(5) persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
(6) persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.
The SBTC claims there is confusion around “food for emergency restocking of stores” exemption as “believe this is not clear for drivers and there is a question what method a driver is expected to go through to determine if the food it is transporting is in fact “Food for emergency restocking of stores.”” There is a simple answer to this, just look at your Bill of Lading, or ask your shipper if it is and if so, have them notate the Bill of Lading.
Carriers who are making routine commercial deliveries, or transporting mixed loads, where a portion of the load is designated for relief efforts, and the other portion of the load is a regular commercial delivery, will not fall under the scope of this declaration, and therefore must follow current HOS regulations. According to the declaration, “direct assistance to the recovery effort terminates” as soon as the carrier hauls freight that is not in support of emergency relief efforts.
It is the advice of Freight Broker Live, again, that if you question whether or not the freight you are hauling is part of the relief effort, ask the shipper when you load, and if it is, have them to notate the bill of lading. Make sure you keep a copy of the Emergency Declaration in your truck with you while hauling as part of the relief efforts to show any DOT officer who may question it. DO NOT decide on your own that it is part of the relief efforts. That will be an extremely bad move and will likely place you out of service. And if you are hauling freight that is not part of the relief effort, DO NOT not comply with the HOS regulations, as that too is a bad move and will likely place you out of service.
As much as we love social media, we can not rely on it for real answers. There are far too many people who have an issue with the state of current HOS regulations (rightfully so) to be able to give a real, unbiased answer or might simply not know as this is the first time there has ever been a National HOS exemption due to a National Emergency Declaration. If you cant decide whether the freight you are hauling is part of the relief effort, assume it is not.