FMCSA Emergency Declaration – What Fleet Managers And Truck Drivers Need To Know

When Matrack called to check on our customers due to the on-going pandemic, several casual discussions led to the leeway that truck drivers on the fore front are being granted. To which, most fleet managers/owners and truck drivers themselves were found to be caught in a perplexity regarding the FMCSA response and the emergency declaration regulations.  With an urge to ensure proper guidance to carry out operations during this catastrophe, Matrack therefore decided to put together garnered information relevant to the FMCSA emergency declaration. In this blog you can understand;

  • The FMCSA Emergency Declaration for Fleets
  • Loopholes in the Emergency Declaration
  • Missing regulations of the Emergency Declaration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set forth a 50 state emergency declaration in response to the Novel Corona virus pandemic in an attempt to ease out the pressure building up on motor carriers and drivers that directly assist the current situation. The declaration has been designed to render temporary relief from parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). However, the emergency declaration not only brought about more confusion than clarity, but also demanded an expansion to exemptions to suit the predicament.

The FMCSA therefore expanded the declaration first on the 18th of March and again on the 8th of April after its original declaration that was announced on the 13th of March 2020. Despite amendments made to the original emergency declaration, motor carriers and drivers were still puzzled with ample confusion about what exactly is included and exempted in the temporary expansion.

To clear the opacity let us first understand the expansion owing to the emergency declaration.

As a fleet owner/manager, it is indeed important to stay in line with the FMCSA rules and regulations that continue to change in order to suit the pandemic situation.

FMCSA Emergency Declaration for Fleets

  • The temporary expansion and waivers for fleets and carriers were to expire on the 12th of April 2020, which has now been extended to the 15th of May, 2020 or until President Donald Trump abolishes the national emergency brought about by the pandemic
  • The emergency declaration states that there is no exemption for compliance with state laws and regulations which includes traffic violations and over speeding
  • While truckloads/fleets carrying raw material are exempt, mixed loads are not. In the case of mixed loads, a nominal amount of essential load is a mandate for general acceptance
  • Packing for food items, wood pulp, raw materials used to manufacture bleach, disinfectants, hand sanitizers and similar items are covered in the emergency declaration
  • 10 hours of rest after completing a day’s work is a mandate according to the declaration. This means fleet drivers cannot compromise on their needed hours of rest
  • Time spent while getting to work by personal means is not regarded as “on duty” time
  • Despite the emergency relief of parts 390 through 399 of the FMCSRs, the declaration is also very clear about safety considerations thereby prohibiting an unfit driver to take on or complete any given ride. This means if a driver is impaired, can become impaired, tired, etc. the expansion does not permit him to drive. It also rules out drunken driving completely. Fleet managers can ensure the same by making thorough checks on drivers before assigning them a trip
  • None of the hours of service regulations apply when the driver is engaged with providing direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption
  • Hours of service that is provided for direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption is not counted in the 60/70- hour rule
  • Fleets and carriers do not need to possess specific documentation necessary to confirm that a driver is operating under the exemption. However, ordinary business records, such as the bill of lading, etc. could be maintained for future inspection, if any
  • The transport of food products in the first declaration stirred up confusion among truck drivers and carriers. It was not very obvious about what all came under emergency restocking of stores. There was perplexity whether the food transferred between manufacturers and distributors was a consideration in the expansion at all. The revised declaration then issued an inclusion of all food shipments at any point in the supply chain to the temporary expansion
  • The emergency exemption includes relief from all the hours-of service regulations in 49 CFR part 395. This means, maintaining a log book or ELD record is no mandate for fleets, temporarily

As maintaining a record is not compulsory now, drivers wondered what they could do about the ELD installed in their vehicle when it comes to accounting for the miles driven. If you have a Matrack ELD installed to make your fleet operations simpler, here are a few options for your vehicles;

  1. Drivers from your fleet could use the “authorized personal use” (personal conveyance) function that our ELDs house, in order to record time spent providing direct assistance under the exemption. This would put the driver on “off duty” mode. This particular ELD feature also demands a note added for having chosen the option.
  2. Drivers could also use the normal mode on the Matrack ELD and put a note for the direct assistance related extra hours.
  3. Drivers could simply turn off the Matrack ELD in the vehicle.

Loopholes in the Emergency Declaration

As the expanded declaration has put an exemption on precursor raw material, it is extremely important that fleets and carriers understand the detailing behind this regulation.

  • Although hauling immediate precursor raw materials such as paper, plastics or alcohol would not mean violating the law, a driver should be vigilant that the raw material he transports is used for the manufacture of items such as medical supplies and equipment, food, paper products, disinfectants and other essential grocery items only. It is also important to note that every raw material does not come under this expansion. For example: plastic used to build a fancy chair does not qualify as essential raw material, nor does pet food or paper used for magazines.
  • To make sure that the expansion and exemptions of the FMCSA declaration are not being misused, trucking companies should consider maintaining documents that ensure what the raw material being transported is going to be used for. For example; if plastic is being transported, it should be documented in writing or email that the plastic is being transported to manufacture water bottles, food packing equipment, disinfectant bottles, etc.
  • As per the FMCSA declaration, feed, fertilizer, livestock and wood are to be treated as precursor material. However, if the wood pulp is not being used for a COVID-19 purpose, it would mean misusing the expansion. As a responsible fleet manager/owner, you should therefore ensure that the material being transported by your fleet is a COVID-19 essential.

As the amendments cleared out a lot of the building confusion, there are still a few regulations that are applicable but are not mentioned anywhere in the emergency declaration.

Missing regulations of the Emergency Declaration

  • The expansion while exempting raw material transportations stated that mixed loads would be exempted only if there is a nominal quantity of essential raw material. However, how much would qualify as nominal quantity was never mentioned.
  • Although drivers are not exempt from the drug and alcohol testing, there is a COVID-19 testing guidance provided by the FMCSA on their website, which is not mentioned in the declaration. However, as fleet manager/owner it is important that you maintain a strict rule regarding the same within your company.
  • The emergency declaration also does not say anything about the three month waiver for commercial driver’s licenses or waivers granted to medical cards that have or will expire after the 1st of March. As fleet manager/owner, you could educate your drivers about the same.

The FMCSA is working closely with states to ensure adequate parking and other facilities for truck drivers.

It is important to note that emergency declarations may differ between two different states. It would be wise to also check yours and the state’s, you are travelling to, websites to understand how much of the declaration, are the respective states complying with. You could find this information here.

 “It is extremely important that drivers and motor carriers do an extensive research on informative websites like Matrack to be doubly sure of the FMCSA regulations and gain a deeper insight to the temporary expansion and exemptions” says Cam Smith, VP at Matrack. “Constant changes in the FMCSA regulations are bound to be part of the pandemic situation. We promise to keep our customers updated.” he added.

For any assistance with COVID-19 updates for fleets you could visit us at MatrackInc

Fleet Procedures To Minimize COVID 19 Contagions

Key Takeaways

  • Hygiene
  • Social Distancing
  • Sanitization
  • Use of Disposables
  • Fueling the Fleet
  • Educate Your Fleet
  • If an Employee Tests Corona virus Positive
  • Local Restrictions
  • Customer Interaction and Vehicle Usage
  • After a Travel

With our heroes on the forefront, safeguarding us from famine and discomfort brought about by the scarcity of daily essentials, it is imperative to take compulsory measures that discourage the spread of Corona virus among truck drivers to wholesalers and the end customer there by.

Breaking the chain of the COVID-19 contagion can indeed be done with a myriad of preventive measures. Moreover, it is the right of every truck driver, cleaner or fleet instructor to be provided with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or any serious physical harm. This is backed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) General Duty clause. For most truck drivers, their truck is their place of employment.

It is the responsibility of every fleet manager to ensure that the fleet he leads is not contributing to the spread of the deadly COVID-19 in any way. COVID-19 is generally spread through personal contact or contact with surfaces touched by an infected person. However, with proper preventive measures, this contagion sure can be contained.

Matrack has taken an initiative to pen down all the measures our customers can take to prevent self-infection as well as spreading the infection ahead.

Hygiene

  • Always sneeze or cough coving your mouth with the inner part of your elbow
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds as frequently as you can or whenever necessary
  • Sanitize your hands
  • Keep your belongings clean and sanitized

Social Distancing

  • Maintain at least a one arm distance from whoever you meet
  • Avoid physical contact altogether
  • Fleet managers should limit the number of persons in one truck to avoid crowding especially when transporting crews
  • Stay away from crowds

Sanitization

  • It is important to regularly sanitize all equipment like; computers, scanners, cart handles used to haul equipment, door knobs and toolboxes
  • Also sanitize the steering wheel, dash board and interiors of fleet vehicles
  • Foster the habit of cleaning and then disinfecting work spaces and frequently touched surfaces to minimize the contagion
  • Use an EPA-approved disinfectant
  • The novel Corona virus takes about 3 days to become ineffective. Therefore sanitizing after every passenger leaves a vehicle in your fleet is extremely essential
  • Make it a rule that every employee in your fleet will clean after themselves. Any trolley, equipment, surface, tool, etc. touched by them would be sanitized by them soon after
  • Take care that the employees from your fleet travelling with mini sized sanitizers can facilitate regular hand-washing

 Use of Disposables

  • Every employee in the fleet should wear a mask while on the go or while interacting with others and must dispose the mask once damp or ineffective
  • Ensure that drivers wear gloves while on duty and dispose the gloves with due caution once dirtied

Fueling the Fleet

  • As fleet manager, you should instruct your fleet drivers to use wet wipes to clean the fuel pump handle and keypad before punching the odometer and driver ID. In case wet wipes are absent, use tissue or gloves to touch the same
  • To properly clean out fuel cards as well, especially if the card is shared
  • To dispose wet wipes, tissue or gloves used during this procedure, before entering the vehicle

Educate Your Fleet

  • It is important that as fleet manager, you educate your fleet about COVID-19 with details on the seriousness and spread of the pandemic
  • Fill in your employees with updated information on locations and specific areas where Corona virus is spreading rapidly or is at its peak
  • Ensure that drivers delivering to locations reporting COVID-19 are briefed by a qualified professionals like; a health service personnel, health care providers or local public health partners
  • Ensure that your employees know whom to contact in case they feel sick while on the go

Drivers in your fleet could access latest information on Corona virus here

If an Employee Tests Corona virus Positive

  • If your employee tests positive, immediately have the vehicle he/she used cleaned and thoroughly sanitized
  • It is important to get other employees in closed contact with the positive employee tested or quarantined as well
  • Please note that HIPPA Act of 1996 (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) considers it a criminal act to reveal medical information without the employee’s permission

Local Restrictions

  • Drivers should comply with local instructions and restrictions while on the go
  • In case a local authority advises them otherwise in relevance to what they were going to be doing, they need to follow the local authority instructions irrespectively

Customer Interaction and Vehicle Usage

  • Avoid the handshake
  • Minimize driver interaction at service stations
  • If possible, make an interaction guideline on the procedure to be followed by a driver with the third party in case of a mishap
  • Allot a single driver for a vehicle in your fleet to avoid multiple people using the same vehicle thus hampering safety
  • Ensure family member of the driver do not use the vehicle from your fleet

After a Travel

  • Every driver, especially after travelling to an area where the spread of Corona virus is high, should monitor himself and conduct regular temperature checks for 14 days thereafter
  • Leave the doors and windows open for a while after completing a ride to ensure air flow in the vehicle
  • Clean the vehicle and use a disinfectant after every completed trip or during a prolonged stop

In order to protect your fleet from the dire consequences of COVID-19, it is extremely crucial that as fleet manager or owner, you commit to the safety of your fleet at any cost. Proper measures are to be implemented for protection against Corona virus and for the same. Fleet authorities can learn about Corona virus related employer and employee information here

“Together we can stop the spread of COVID-19. Stay safe, stay protected.”  Says Cam Smith – Matrack VP

How Does The Corona Virus Stimulus Bill Benefit The Trucking Industry?

As the invisible enemy hits the pause button on the economy of the United States, President Donald Trump throws a float at the drowning businesses in an attempt to keep them afloat. For the first time in the history of America, President Donald Trump ratified a $2 Trillion Corona virus stimulus bill, which is said be the largest sanction so far, to sustain heavy losses the novel Corona virus continues to deluge the country with.

The stimulus bill however, raked a plenty of questions stirring up ample confusion amid individuals as well as businessmen. Before we get to the in depths of the opacity brought about by the bill, let us take a look at what is included in the stimulus bill on the whole.

“The government is doing its best to quench the impact of COVID-19 on its people.” says Cam Smith, VP of Matrack Inc.

The Corona virus stimulus bill entails;

  • Direct stimulus payments – Adults eligible for $1200, married couples $2400 and $500 for each child below the age of 17. These are supposed to be direct payments for individuals making up to $75,000 annually
  • Hospitals, health care providers and health care systems can use more than $130 billion for pandemic related medical expenses
  • Expanded unemployment coverage that includes temporarily laid off employees, gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors, self-employed workers, etc. the bill states that the aforementioned are eligible for $600 per week for a period of four months, hereby
  • A $367 billion grant and loan for small businesses
  • Airlines to receive cash grants of $25 billion, $4 billion for air cargo carriers and $3 billion for airline contractors (example: caterers, etc.) for payroll back up
  • Corporate America to receive $500 billion fund for loans, these loans will be supervised by an inspector general and a congressional panel. Documents for every loan will be made public
  • $150 billion dollars granted to state and local governments

To learn the benefits the bill bears for individuals and families you could click here

Apart from individual, family, hospitals, retirement and unemployment benefits, the stimulus bill has sanctioned a huge amount to small businesses and the corporate sector. Let us now understand what the stimulus bill contains for small scale industries like fleet companies and big businesses in the trucking industry.

What does the bill mean for Truck Drivers?

A truck driver would come under the independent contractor category. This means a truck driver is eligible for the unemployment benefits included in the stimulus bill. Therefore truck drivers will be eligible for a weekly stipend in federal support for about four months. Employees for companies like Uber, Lyft and Instacart can benefit from the unemployment plan too.

Small Business Loan Grant for Fleet Companies

President Donald Trump unanimously granted $349 billion to the small business sector impacted by COVID-19 in the United States.

Any business employing less than five hundred employees is eligible for a loan from this allotted amount. This also includes fleet companies, veteran organization, tribal businesses, non-profit organizations, restaurants, hotels, independent franchises, sole proprietors, etc.

The global pandemic has indicated towards unfortunate layoffs and losses, especially in the small business sector. Therefore the intention of the loan is to give small businesses monetary assistance to pay their workers for a minimum period of 8 weeks. It gives fleet owners a chance to re employ workers that have been laid off. A fleet owner can use the loan amount can also be used to pay rent, benefits, utilities, interest payments, etc.

Fleet companies are eligible for ‘Small Business Interruption’ loan of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll. However, businesses with employee strength of less than 500 will be eligible for not more than a $10 million loan.

The stimulus bill has also authorized an additional $10 billion in emergency grants for small businesses, agricultural co-operations, employee owned organizations and more. This loan can be converted into advances on forgivable loans relevant to the aforementioned. Small businesses like fleet companies can liberally use the loan amount for business purposes. However, if they cannot repay the amount they need to keep in mind the following points;

  • A loan taken to pay employees for eight weeks and used within the stipulated time of 2 months is forgivable. However, only the principal amount will be forgiven.
  • An employee cannot be paid more than $10,000 within two months.
  • If the salaries of the employees cross $100,000, a loan taken for that high an amount would not be forgiven.
  • The loan amount would be granted by taking into consideration employee salary of a given firm between January 1st 2020 and February 29th 2020 respectively.
  • Each loan would be granted at an interest rate of 4 percent.

Fleet companies could also use lending programs and tax credits set up in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This Act permits states to issue special permits for overweight loads of emergency supplies until the emergency declaration is valid. Fleet owners can apply for PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) loans from 10th April to 30th June 2020.

Loans for the Trucking Industry

The Coronavirus stimulus bill states that industries and airlines will get a combined allocation of $500 billion to assuage the impact of COVID-19, thus rendering economic stabilization. However, the loans granted to businesses calls for their relinquishment of certain control to the federal government as trade for the financial rescue. Given below is what the stimulus bill holds for the large carriers in the trucking sector;

  • The bill grants tax credits to trucking companies that did not lay off employees despite a significant revenue loss.
  • Trucking companies that use this loan benefit are restricted from granting their employees an increment, temporarily.
  • After opting for this loan, companies in the trucking industry or otherwise, will not be permitted to buy back stocks for an entire year after the pandemic impact settles.
  • The members of Congress and heads of federal agencies, business controlled by the vice president or the president himself, are ineligible for a loan from the $500 billion sanction.
  • Unlike Small Business Interruption loans, these loans have to be repaid as they are not forgivable. However, these loans will be granted at a 1 percent interest rate.
  • Trucking companies would only need to pay the 1 percent interest amount for a period of 6 months after the loan is granted.

Fleet owners could fill the application for loan form here

It is important to note that all loans will be under strict supervision. The stimulus bill has loosened rules that normally govern SBA loans. The loans do not demand anything to be kept collateral or any personal guarantee.

Stay In Line With FMCSA’s COVID-19 Regulations

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has turned the world upside down, putting almost every sector on hold. The pandemic however has not managed to bring the transport sector under a complete lockdown. On March 13th, in quick response to the situation and for the first time in history, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) issued a national emergency declaration rendering hours of service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting essential commodities across the U.S. Since the March 13th declaration, the FMCSA has been consistently updating and expanding tailored regulation, accommodating the current pandemic engulfing the country and the world.

“Matrack Inc. will do due diligence in taking action in response to the FMCSA’s national emergency declaration. There is no such thing as s small precaution during this time, and I hope and aim that any measure taken supports and facilitates our truckers and fleet owners by benefiting especially their tracking and fleet management system during this lockdown period.” says Cam Smith, VP at Matrack Inc.

Pandemic Calls for Adjustments in FMCSA Regulations

As the nation comes to a standstill amid this global pandemic, the demand for emergency goods, such as medical supplies, groceries, and sanitizers, continues to remain at its peak. The situation therefore calls for FMCSA regulation adjustments so that the supply meets the demand adequately, without imposing extra pressure on truck drivers to adhere to every rule by the FMCSA. In response to the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak, the FMCSA announced the nationwide exemption, following President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

Initially, the exemption was confined to suspend the hours of service regulation and fmcsa 34 hour restart rule for transportation of medical supplies such as testing and diagnostic kits, masks, sanitizers, gloves and other safety equipment essential to address the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as desperate times call for desperate measures, the FMCSA recently decided upon an expansion of exempting regulations that now include transport of groceries, food, and raw materials (e.g. paper and alcohol).

What are the FMCSA updated regulations in response to the COVID-19  outbreak?

  • The expanded regulations of the FMCSA pertain to the hours of service suspension. The exemption includes relief from all the hours-of-service regulations in 49 CFR part 395, which means maintaining a logbook or ELD login is not mandatory.
  • Transportation of medical supplies and emergency equipment crucial to COVID-19 treatment and diagnosis
  • Transportation of safety equipment and equipment necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 such as gloves, soap, sanitizers, disinfectants, masks, etc.
  • Transportation of food, groceries, livestock, etc.
  • Transportation of precursor material like paper, plastic, alcohol and other immediate raw materials required in the manufacturing of essential commodities
  • Transportation of fuel
  • Transportation of designated persons, by federal, state or local authorities, for quarantine or medical isolation
  • Transportation of medical authorities and persons in medical services

Apart from hours of service related exemptions, the FMCSA has also waived off medical card and license related regulations such as:

  • If a driver possesses a valid medical card as of February 29, 2020, that was valid for at least 90 days, the driver is permitted to drive with the expired certificate until June 30, 2020. This exemption is applicable to both CDL and non-CDL CMV drivers
  • If the driver’s license was unable to be renewed due to the outbreak, and was valid as of February 29, 2020, and expired or downgraded on or after March 1, 2020, the driver is granted a waiver for an expired license until June 20, 2020. Commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), commercial learner’s permits (CLP), and non-CDL licenses are eligible for this exemption.

What is included in Direct Assistance?

  • Direct assistance caters to immediate restoration of essential services and supplies, such as medical equipment, food and fuel.
  • Hours worked providing direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption does not count under the 60-70 hour rule. Also, the hours of service regulations do not apply if the driver is engaged with providing direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption.
  • This regulation only serves the need of the situation caused by the pandemic and is not applicable to routine commercial drivers.

“Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce… Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399,” the declaration reads.

Safety Considerations and Limitations of the Declaration

Although the country is in a state of emergency, there are some measures that cannot be exempted. The government is putting together the maximum it can to ease the situation. However, safety always comes first and therefore the declaration imposes specific restrictions, while the following rules are still mandatory:(

  • The expanded declaration comes with a precondition that routine commercial deliveries do not come under this rule. Therefore, routine commercial deliveries or deliveries without a minimal amount of material qualified for emergency requirement or mixed load are not permitted to take advantage of this expanded declaration.
  • It also compels that a driver transporting property must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty, and a driver transporting passengers must receive a minimum of 8 hours off-duty, after he completes a delivery.
  • It is important that a commercial motor vehicle complies with State laws and regulations. Violation of speed limits and other traffic restrictions will not be accepted.
  • It is mandated that the drive pulls over and gets some rest if the driver’s ability or alertness is impaired or likely to become impaired due to any illness, fatigue, etc.
  • If a driver holds a short-term medical card of 30 days, he does not qualify for the medical card COVID-19 exemption. The card issued has to have 90 day validity.
  • The exemption does not suspend drug and alcohol testing. In case of an accident, a post-accident test must be conducted unless the driver has a valid reason to document why the testing was not conducted.
  • Refusing DOT testing or leaving the collection site without providing a specimen is considered equal to testing positive and hence is rendered as rule violation.
  • A fatal accident, injury or property damage is considered as a criminal and civil offense irrespective of the exemptions. Carriers and drivers are still expected to operate safely and responsibly despite exemptions.

“A lot of our drivers like the Matrack ELD solution, which includes a free device and month-to-month service subscription. No contract. Cancel anytime. We keep drivers safe by recording driving data, such as hours of service, in compliance with DOT regulations. ELDs allow edits, but also retain the original data.” – Cam Smith, VP at Matrack Inc

States Take Additional Measures in Response to COVID-19

Map of Coronavirus (Covid-19), Close-up united states with Covid-19, Covid 19 usa map confirmed cases report worldwide globally

The FMCSA has given discretion to states to decide upon the implementation of the aforementioned waivers. Therefore, while some states might recognize and abide by the exemptions, some may choose not to abide. Some states like Ohio, Missouri, Texas and Michigan, have extended their measures towards the transportation sector, in the fight against COVID-19. Michigan has waived off seasonal weight restrictions on motor carriers and drivers, while Missouri permits up to 10% more than their licensed weight on its highways. Ohio has suspended hours of service rules on transportation of consumer goods and medical supplies. These waivers are solely applicable to essential supply pertaining to COVID-19 alone.

Until the Pandemic Lasts

The aforementioned exemptions and waivers are said to be valid for a period of three months only.  The exemptions do not demand any extra documentation. However, ordinary business records, such as the bill of lading, may be useful later for convenience purposes. The FMCSA is also working closely with the States to ensure that adequate truck parking and facilities are available and drivers are not hassled while transporting emergency supplies.

“These tough times shall pass. We’re all in this together. We will constantly update the blog as more information pours in. In the meanwhile, stay safe, happy and healthy” ends Matrack Inc VP Cam Smith. Until then you could also use a keep on trucking app to stay updated with trucking line.