Last month, for the first time since the rule was actually established, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has lifted their hours-of-service (HOS) law. This 1938 federal law mandates the number of hours a trucker can work, in an effort to keep both truck drivers and the passengers of other vehicles on our roadways safe from the risk of drowsy driving.

Said FMCSA’s Acting Administrator Jim Mullen, “…the FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food, and household goods to Americans in need. The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain. We will continue to support them and use our authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

So why have these HOS regulations been lifted? The FMCSA issued an emergency declaration on March 13 (ongoing through May 15, 2020), lifting these restrictions in an effort to get COVID-19 pandemic relief supplies like medicine, food, and other necessary products to the areas that need them most. This means that truck drivers carrying certain types of cargo are no longer prohibited from working more than 70 hours in an eight-day period, or from taking a 30-minute break every eight hours.

Truckers must be hauling cargo essential for the coronavirus pandemic, including:

  • Food, paper products and other groceries for restocking
  • Fuel and gasoline
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to COVID-19
  • Persons designated by authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine
  • Persons necessary to provide medical or emergency services
  • Raw materials required for the manufacture of essential items
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of transmission of COVID-19
  • Supplies and persons necessary for temporary housing or quarantine

The FMCSA’s declaration does stipulate that once a driver has completed their delivery, they must spend 10 hours off duty if transporting property and eight hours off duty if transporting passengers. Additionally, these driver exemptions don’t apply to routine commercial deliveries or mixed loads.

We’re thankful for all our essential workers going above and beyond the call of service to keep our supply chain running as smoothly as possible. This makes it even more important for us to remain alert and careful if we have to be out on our highways here in Tennessee. Our truckers are working hard and they’re working long hours, and the risk of truck accidents may be increased.

The attorneys at Delius & McKenzie, PLLC can answer any legal questions you may have during this difficult time. Don’t worry – we are here to advocate for you and protect your rights. We fight for clients in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee locations. To schedule a consultation, call us at 865-428-8780 or fill out our contact form to review your case.

For more information on monitoring the spread of the coronavirus on a global basis, you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization.