A relatively small addition to the pandemic-related hours of service exemption was added by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 8 days before the exemption expired.
The change announced Friday by the FMCSA adds the transportation of propane, natural gas and fuel oil to the list of goods that can be transported without regard to hours of service regulations. This blanket exemption to HOS from the regulations found at 49 CFR § 395.3 of the Federal Code of Regulations was announced on March 13, 2020. It has been extended several times.
Before the end of the month, the federal exemption would have to be extended again, otherwise the more than 2-year exemption from the HOS rule would disappear. While there is no indication that the general exemption from 2020 will be extended, the addition of three types of products whose transport now benefits from an exemption would seem to signal that an extension of the exemption is in sight.
The American Trucking Associations has released a list of products exempted under the pandemic-fueled relief. The three energy products – which ironically were added just as their peak winter use season ends – were listed along with gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and ethyl alcohol, which were already exempt .
Other exempted areas are:
–Livestock and feed
–Medical supplies related to COVID-19 testing and processing procedures
–Vaccines and supplies related to vaccination against COVID-19
–Commodities related to community safety and sanitation for COVID-19, such as masks or gloves
–Food and paper products to restock distribution centers or stores
-An exemption for a broad category that the ATA describes as “supplies to assist those affected by the consequences of the COVID-10 pandemic.” He cites building materials for people displaced by COVID-19 as an example.
The ATA noted that the exemption will remain in effect until May 31 “unless extended by the FMCSA.”
Companies that exceed HOS regulations under the protection of the waiver were required, starting last August, to report monthly when they were operating under the terms of the waiver.
Whether the HOS exemption had any impact, however drastic, is debatable. As the HOS1.USA data series in SONAR seems to suggest, some of the peak hours of service per driver have been higher over the past two years.
The pre-rule peaks in the data series tended to peak at 6.3 to 6.4 hours on the road out of the 11 high.
Since then there have been spikes taking used HOS above 6.4 and up to 6.6. But other factors could play a role, such as higher rates encouraging drivers to rack up more hours and earn more money.
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