FMCSA wants input on extending its COVID emergency declaration

The COVID-19 national emergency declaration merit will expire on October 15. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking for the public’s perspective to see if the emergency declaration should be extended to have more time with the benefits. The agency stated that it is interested in learning how much reliance motor carriers have on the emergency declaration to “deliver certain commodities and whether there has been any impact on safety.”

In a Federal Register posting on September 7, the FMCSA stated that it would like to see any data or information it should use in determining whether the emergency declaration should be extended or modified, as well as the safety and supply chain impacts of the declaration. Transport Topics reported that, “The agency seeks public comment on the usage of the emergency declaration for the covered products,” it said. “Specifically, if the usage is fit for the intended purpose of the limited relief. Commenters are encouraged to share with the agency the source of the data or information and provide recommendations on additional actions the agency should consider in monitoring the use of the declaration.”

The FMCSA said that they will receive comments through September 21. The initial emergency declaration was issued in March of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

The original declaration provided:

  • Hours-of-service regulatory relief
    • to commercial vehicle drivers transporting essential supplies
    • equipment needed for carriers and drivers to keep food on grocery store shelves
    • Medicine available for treatment at hospitals, physicians, and nurses
  • Continued transport of supplies and equipment that was necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19

This expanded declaration now states that direct assistance does not comprise routine commercial deliveries – including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration. The FMCSA stated that it believes the emergency declaration and subsequent extensions have provided the transportation industry with critical regulatory relief, assisting the nation in addressing the challenges associated with responding to the COVID-19 emergency. One of the FMCSA’s requests for motor carriers that were operating under the emergency declaration was to report certain pieces of information to the agency. Some of this information could include the number of trips, commodities transported, and others. Based on the information received they reported that the primary categories of commodities transported under the emergency declaration were, food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores; and livestock and livestock feed.