The Department of Transportation said it has taken regulatory measures to help ensure the safe, rapid transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine, including expanding the emergency exemption for trucking operations involved in the effort.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve emergency use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine soon, possibly as early as next week. The agency is then expected to approve one from Moderna. Others are in the pipeline, as well.
Over the last several weeks, DOT agencies have been coordinating with officials from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s public–private partnership effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. As part of that, DOT also has been coordinating with the private sector companies that will carry the vaccines from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and inoculation points. The Department has established the appropriate safety requirements for all potential hazards involved in shipping the vaccine, including standards for dry ice and lithium batteries, as well as steps to make sure air and land logistics supply networks are able to operate efficiently.
One of those steps was expanding the nationwide exemption to hours-of-service regulations for trucking companies and commercial drivers providing direct emergency assistance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended its Emergency Declaration to support emergency transportation of vaccines and medical supplies and equipment related to the prevention of COVID-19.
FMCSA’s Emergency Declaration, which grants regulatory relief to commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts, has been extended through Feb. 28, 2021. This renewed declaration has been expanded to now include the transportation of:
- Livestock and livestock feed;
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
- Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19;
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants; and
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
As before, the agency cautions that direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.