After more than two and a half years of COVID-19 emergency exemptions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has chosen not to renew its COVID-19 emergency declaration that had been in place since March 2020 and its associated exemptions.
They provided some regulatory relief (primarily related to driver hours of service) for carriers and drivers transporting certain commodities as part of the novel-coronavirus emergency relief efforts, such as ventilators, medical masks, sanitizer, vaccines, etc. The exemptions also included some loads affected by supply-chain issues and shortages such as fuel, livestock feed, and paper products (remember the great toilet paper shortage?).
The exemptions were the first time the agency had issued a national emergency declaration; typically such exemptions are regional in response to natural disasters and other disruptions.
The declaration, which the agency had renewed several times over the past two years, expired on Oct. 15. According to the FMCSA's website, “There are no active emergency declarations at this time.”
Although the agency didn’t formally announce its decision to terminate the emergency declaration and its corresponding exemptions, it had hinted at the possibility. In a notice posted to the Federal Register in September, the FMCSA sought comments from regulated motor carriers about their use of the existing COVID-19 emergency declaration and exemption, in an effort for the agency to determine whether it should continue to renew that declaration going forward. That caused many to speculate the agency may not renew the declaration.
According to Trucksafe Consulting, many industry groups expressed support for a further extension of the declaration. However, many safety groups opposed it.