March 2020, in response to the then-novel COVID-19 pandemic, saw the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations’ passage of a national hours-of-service exemption. It waived restrictions of service by giving drivers increased flexibility to deliver specific shipments including those of livestock, groceries, diesel fuel, medical equipment and of course, vaccines.
The exemption has been renewed for over two years but on Oct. 15, that changed.
“There are no active [Federal] emergency declarations at this time,” according to a recent update to the FMCSA’s website.
Trucking companies supported and advocated for the exemption that expired on Oct. 15 as it increased the safety of drivers. Livestock and agricultural drivers were especially supportive of its renewal. Michael Seyfert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association, recognized the relief it provided.
“Agricultural shippers have been experiencing significant rail service challenges and emergency truck freight has been indispensable to helping meet demand,” he said.
Conversely, the American Trucking Associations and the Truck Safety Coalition supported the exemption not being renewed.
The ATA felt as though the relief provided by the exemption was no longer a necessity and worried about another renewal.
“ATA members continue to voice concerns that continuing regulatory relief may be used to circumvent the hours-of-service regulations or foster abuse of the regulations,” said the organization in response to FMCSA’s request for comment.
The Truck Safety Coalition noted a 13% uptick in fatal truck crashes that happened in 2020 and 2021. They felt this was reason for the exemption to be ended.
“FMCSA must consider the deplorable state of roadway safety when considering continued regulatory relief, specifically, the unabated rise in truck crash fatalities,” the group said.
While the FMCSA has not released a statement on the details of their decision, the September 2022 extension noted that some cargo under the exemption was declining in frequency, indicating a possible reason for the Oct. 15 termination.